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INDEX 303 







The letter On Translating was one of the works composed 
during Luther's residence at Feste Cotorg. 1 It was sent to Luther's 
friend, Wenzel Link, at Nuremberg, September 12, 1530, with the 
request that he give it to a publisher. 11 Link promptly furnished it with 
a brief foreword, dated September 15, in which he says that it has 
come into his hands " through a good friend. "* 

It is ostensibly an answer to two questions put to Luther by another 
" good friend. " Who this friend is, is not known. He was probably 
invented by Luther himself to furnish an excuse for discussing, in the 
form of a letter, subjects that were then on his mind. Under the guise 
of a defense of his translation of Romans iii, 28, he writes on justifi- 
cation by faith and on the true meaning of good works, concluding 
the work with a brief treatment of the intercession of saints. In the 
course of the discussion he states and defends the methods that he had 
used in translating the Scriptures, 

No other man in history has had a better right to speak on the 
subject of translating than Luther had. His German Bible is the 
greatest piece of translating that modern times have known. It has 
required more than a little courage to attempt to translate the present 
work into another language, out of Luther's German. The translator 
can only ask that critics of his translation will credit him with an 
effort to apply to Luther's writing the principles of translation that 
Luther here states and defends. 

The text of the letter is found in Weimar Ed., XXX*, 632 iE 
Erlangen Ed. LXV, 104 ff., St. Louis Ed., XIX, 968 tf. 
CLEMEN IV, 180 ff. t Berlin Ed,, VII, 26 ff. (With latter part 
omitted). The translation is from the text of Clemen, 



* See Introduction to the Exhortation to the Clergy* Vol. IV, 
p. 327 f. this edition. 
8 ENDBUS* viii, 257. 
Weimar Ed XXX s , 633* 



To the honorable N., my esteemed Lord and friend. 

Grace and peace in Christ, honorable dear sir and friend. 

' TV I have received your letter with the two questions, or in- 

Quwtiwis quirje^ to w hich you ask my reply. First, Why in trans- 

R lating the words of Paul; in the third chapter of Romans, 

3:28 Arbitramur, hominem justificari ex fide 

absque operibus, I rendered them thus: "We hold 

that man is justified without the works of the law, only by 

faith" P 1 You tell me, besides, that the papists are making a 

tremendous f uss, because the word sola, "only/' is not in 

Paul's text, and this addition of my own to God's Word is 

not to be tolerated. Second, Whether the departed saints 

pray for us, since we read that the angels do pray for us ? 

With reference to the first question, you may give the 
papists the following answer, if you like. 

First, If I, Dr. Luther, could have expected that all the 

4116 papists together would be able to translate a single chapter 
of the Scriptures correctly and well, I should certainly have 
mustered up enough humility to invite their aid and assis- 
tance in putting the New Testament into German. But be- 
cause I knew, and still see with my own eyes, that none of 
them knows how to translate or to speak German, I spared 
them and myself that trouble. It is evident, indeed, that 
from my translating and my German they are learning to 
speak and write German, and so are stealing my language, of 
which they had little knowledge before. They do not thank 
me for this, however, and prefer to use it against me. But 
I readily grant them this, for it is a feather in my cap* that 
I have taught my ungrateful pupils, even my enemies, how 
to speak. 

* The point of the criticism is that Luther has inserted the word "only " which 
does not appear in. the original text 
9 E thut mix doch sanfft. 


On Translating: An Open Letter 11 

Second, You may say that I translated the New Testament 
to the best of my ability and according to my conscience. I 
have compelled no one to read it, but have left that free, and 
did the work only as a service to those who could not do it 
better. No one is forbidden to do a better piece of work. If 
anyone does not want to read it, he can let it alone. I 
neither ask anybody to read it nor praise anyone who does 
so. It is my Testament and my translation, and it shall con- 
tinue to be mine. If I have made some mistakes in it, 
though I am not conscious of any and would be most unwill- 
ing to- give a single letter a wrong translation intentionally, 
I will not suffer the papists to be the judges. Their ears are 
still too long and their hee-haws too weak, for them to criti- 
cize my translating. I know very well, and they know even 
less than the miller's beast, 1 how much knowledge, work, 
reason and understanding is required in a good translator; 
they have never tried it. 

There is a saying, "He who builds along the road has many 
masters/* That is the way with me. Those who have never 
been able to speak rightly, to say nothing of translating, have 
all at once become my masters and I must be the pupil of 
them all. If I were to have asked them how to put into 
German the first two words of Matthew's Gospel, Liber Matt. 
generationis/ none of them would have known how to 1:1 
say Quack! And now they sit in judgment on the whole 
work ! Fine fellows ! That is the way it was with St. Jerome 
when he translated the Bible. The whole world was his 
master. He was the only one who could do nothing at all, 
and people who were not equal to cleaning his shoes con- 
demned the good man's work. It takes patience to do a good 
deed for the world at large, for the world always wants to be 
Master Wise-man and must always be putting the bit under 
the horse's tail, directing everything, able to do nothing, 

I should like to see a papist who would come forward and 
translate an epistle of St. Paul or one of the prophets without 
making use of Luther's German translation. Then we should 
see a fine, beautiful German translation that we could praise ! 

* ''The book of the generations," 

12 On Translating: An Open Letter 

We have seen the Dresden dirt-scrawler 1 who played the 
master to my New Testament. I shall not mention his 
name again in my books ; he has his Judge, and besides he is 
well known. He admits that my German is sweet and good 
and saw that he could not improve on it ; but, wanting to dis- 
credit it, he went to work and took my New Testament, 
almost word for word as I had written it, removed my intro- 
ductions and explanations, and sold my New Testament tinder 
his own name. There ! dear children, how it hurt me when 
his prince, 2 in a horrible preface, condemned Luther's New 
Testament and forbade the reading of it, but commanded 
that the scrawler's New Testament be read, though it was 
the same that Luther had made! 

That no one may think I am lying, let him take the two 
Testaments, Luther's and the scrawler's, and compare them, 
and he will see who is the translator of both. He has patched 
and altered it in a few places, and though this does not please 
me, I can endure it. It does no special harm, so far as the 
text is concerned. For that reason, I have never wanted to 
write against it, but have had to laugh at the great wisdom 
that so terribly slandered and condemned and forbade my 
New Testament, because it was published under my name, 
but said that it must be read when it was published under 
another's name. What kind of virtue is it to heap slander 
and shame on another's book, and then steal it and publish it 
tinder one's own name, thus seeking praise and reputation by 
the slandered work of someone else? this I leave to his 
Judge to discover. Meanwhile, I am satisfied and glad that 
my work, as St. Paul also claims, is furthered even by ene- 
mies, and Luther's book, without Luther's name and under 
his enemies' name, must be read. How could I avenge my- 
self better? 

But to return to the matter in hand ! If your papist wants 
to make so much fuss about the word sola, "alone/' tell 
him this : "Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and says that 

* Jerome : Emser. He died in 1527. In criticizing Luther's New Testament 
foe pointed out 1,400 errors In the year of his death he published hia owa 
German New Testament in which he had closely followed Luther's version Cf. 
U, Hieroa. Emser (1898), and Vol. Ill, pp. 277 ff . ^ 

JACOBS ' Luther ' a 

On Translating: An Open Letter 13 

a papist and an ass are the same thing." Sic v o 1 o , sic 
jubeo ; sit pro ratione voluntas. 1 We are not 
going to be the pupils and disciples of the papists, but their 
* masters and judges. For once, also, we are going to be proud 
? and brag with these ass-heads, and as St. Paul glories against i COT. 
^his mad saints, so I shall glory against these asses of mine. iitf 
& Are they doctors? So am I. Are they learned? So am I. 
J*- Are they preachers ? So am I. Are they theologians ? So am I. 
P Are they disputants ? So am I. Are they philosophers ? So 
am I. Are they dialecticians ? So am I. Are they lecturers ? 
So am I. Do they write books ? So do I. 

I will go further with my glorying. I can expound Psalms 
and Prophets ; they cannot. I can translate; they cannot. I 
can rea,d the Holy Scriptures ; they cannot. I can pray; they 
^ cannot. To come to lower things ! I can use their own dia- 
lectics 3 and philosophy better than all of them together ; and 
besides, I know for sure that none of them understands their 
Aristotle. If there is a single one among them all who 
rightly understands one Proemium or chapter in Aris- 
totle, I will let myself be tossed in a blanket.* I am not say- 
j ing too much, for I was trained and practiced from my youth 
Jup in all their science and am well aware how deep and 
broad it is. They know very well, too, that I know all and 
can do all that they can. And yet these incurable fellows 
act toward me as though I were a visitor to the home of their 
/^science, who have only just arrived this morning and have 
never either seen or heard what they teach or what they can 
^do. So gloriously do they boast of their science! They are 
^teaching me what I knew by heart twenty years ago, so that 
"\o all their blatting and shouting I have to sing, with the 
Chariot, "I've known for seven years that horseshoe-nails are 



Let this be the answer to your first question. Please give 
these asses no other and no further answer to their blatting 
about the word sola than simply this : "Luther will have it 

* "I will it; I command it; my will is reason enough." 

a The art of debate, which was so highly developed in the later Middle Ages. 
Ct Luther's statement in the Open Letter to the Nobility, 
in this edition, Vol. II, p. 146. 

* Apparently a proverbial expression, the source of which is unknown. 

14 On Translating: An Open Letter 

so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors of the whole 
papacy." It shall stay at that! Henceforth I shall simply 
hold them in contempt and have them held in contempt, so 
long as they are the kind of people, I should say, of asses, 
that they are. There are shameless nincompoops among them 
who have never learned their own science of sophistry, Doc- 
tor Schmidt 1 and Doctor Dirty-nose, 3 and their likes. And 
yet they match themselves against me in this matter, which 
is not only far beyond the reach of sophistry, but as St. fcaul 
says, above the whole world's wisdom and reason. Of 
course, an ass need not sing much ; he is well enough known 
by his ears. 

Answering To you and to our people, however, I shall show why I 
chose to use the word sola, though in Romans iii, it was 
not sola, but solumortantum that I used. So closely 
do the asses look ,at my text ! However, I have used sola 
-fide elsewhere, and I want both, both s o 1 u m and sola. 
I have constantly tried, in translating to produce a pure and 
clear German, and it has often happened that for two or 
three or four weeks we have sought and asked for a single 
word, and sometimes have not found it even then. In work- 
ing at the book of Job, 8 Master Philip/ Aurogallus,' and I 
could sometimes scarcely finish three lines in four days. Now 
that it is translated and complete, anyone can read and criti- 
cize it, and one now runs his eyes over three or four pages 
and does not stumble once. But he is not aware of the humps 
and lumps that were there, where now he slips along as over a 
planed board, while we had to sweat and toil to get the humps 
and lumps out of the way so that one could slide over it so 
finely. It is good plowing when the field is cleaned up ; but 
rooting out the woods and the stumps and getting the field 
ready, that is work that nobody wants. There is no such 
thing as earning the world's thanks ; God Himself can earn 

* Johannes Faber of Leutkirch (1478-1541). Sec PRE* and Cath. Enc. 
a Luther's name for Johannes Cochlaeus (1479-1552). See PRE 8 & Cath. 

* On Luther's difficulties with Job, see his letter to Spalatin, February 23, 
1524, E n d e r s iv, 299; SMITH & JACOBS, Luther's Correspon- 
dence I!, 221f.; also his Preface to the Book of Job, Vol. VI of this edition. 

* Melanchthon. s 
Matthew Aurogallus (1490-1543) was teaching Hebrew at Wittenberg after 

1521. He was cme of Luther's chief assistants in translating the Old Testament* 

On Translating: An Open Letter 15 

no thanks from it with the sun, with heaven and earth, or 
even with His own Son's death. It is just the world, and 
stays the world, in the devil's name, because it does not will 
to be anything else. 

Here, in Romans in, I know right well that the word 
s o 1 u m was not in the Greek or Latin text and had no need 
of the papists to teach me that. It is a fact that these four 
letters s-o-l-a are not there, and at these letters the asses- 
heads stare, like a cow at a new door. At the same time they 
do not see that the sense of them is there and that the word 
belongs there if the translation is to be clear and strong. I 
wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since I had 
undertaken to speak German, in the translation. But it is 
the nature of our German language that in speaking of two 
things, one of which is admitted and the other denied, we 
use the word "only" along with the word "not" or "no." So 
we say, "The farmer brings only grain and no money" ; 
"No, I have no money now, but only grain"; "I have 
only eaten and not drunk" ; "Did you only write it, and 
not read it over?" There are innumerable cases of this kind 
in daily use. 

In all these phrases it is the German usage, even though it 
is not the Latin or Greek usage, and it is the way of the 
German language to add the word "only," in order that the 
word "not" or "no" may be more complete and clearer. To 
be sure, I can also say, "The farmer brings grain and no 
money," but the words "no money" do not sound as full and 
clear as if I were to say, "The fanner brings only grain 
and no money." Here the word "only" helps the word "no" 
so much that it becomes a complete, clear, German phrase. 

We must not, like these asses, ask the Latin letters how we 
are to speak German; but we must ask the mother in the 
home, the children on the street, the common man in the 
marketplace about this, and look them in the mouth to see 
how they speak, and afterwards do our translating. That 
way they understand it and mark that one is speaking Ger- 
man to them. 

For example, Christ says, Ex abundantia cordis 12-34 
Vol. V 2. 

16 On Translating: An Open Letter 

os loquitur. If I am to follow the asses, they will lay the 
letters before me and translate thus : "Out of the surplus of 
the heart, the mouth speaketh." Tell me, is that German? 
What German understands that? What kind of thing is 
"surplus of the heart?" No German can say that, unless, per- 
haps, he wanted to say that someone had too large a heart or 
too much heart, though even that is not right. "Surplus of 
the heart" is not German, any more than is "surplus of the 
house/' "surplus of the stove," "surplus of the bank." But 
the mother in the home and the common man say, "What fills 
the heart overflows the mouth." 1 That is speaking, good Ger- 
man, the kind that I have tried for and, unfortunately, have 
not always reached or hit upon; for the Latin letters are a 
great hindrance to good German speech. 

Matt. Thus, for example, Judas the traitor says, in Matthew 
26:8 xxvi, Ut quid perditio haec? and in Mark xiv, U t 
quid perditio ista unguenti facta est? If I 
^ :4 am to follow these asses of literalists, I must translate that : 
"Why has this loss of the ointment happened ?" But what 
kind of German is that? What German says, "Loss of the 
ointment has happened" ? If he understands that at all, he 
thinks that the ointment is lost, and must be looked for and 
found again, though even that is obscure and uncertain. Now 
if that is good German, why do they not come out and make 
us a fine, pretty, new German Testament like that, and let 
Luther's Testament lie? I believe they would then reveal 
fcheir knowledge! But a German man says, "Why this 
waste?" or "Why this loss? The ointment is ruined." 3 That 
is good German, from which it is understood that Magdalen 
wasted the ointment that she poured out, and did damage. 
That was what Judas meant; he thought he knew a better 
way to dispose of it. 

Luke Again, when the angel greets Mary, he says, "Hail Mary, 
1:28 full of grace, the Lord be with thee!" Up to now that has 
been put into bad German, because the translation has fol- 
lowed the Latin literally. Tell me whether that is good 

*Wes das hertz vol ist, des gehet der mund tiber. 
a W a s soil doch solcher unrat? or W a, s soil doch sol- 
cher schade. Neia, est ist schade umb der salbe. 

On Translating: An Open Letter 17 

German ! When does a German say, "You are full of grace" ? 
What German understands what it is to be "full of grace"? 
He must think of a keg full of beer or a purse full of money. 
Therefore, I have translated it "Thou gracious one/' 1 so that 
a German can think his way to what the angel meant by his 
greeting. Here, however, the papists will go crazy about me, 
because I have corrupted the Angelic Salutation, 2 
though I have not yet hit upon the best German rendering 
for it. Suppose I were to take the best German, and trans- 
late the salutation thus : "Hail, dear Mary/ 13 for that is what 
the angel wanted to say, and what he would have said, if he 
had wanted to salute her in German. Suppose I had done 
that ! I believe that they would have hanged themselves out 
of great devotion to the dear Virgin Mary, because I had thus 
destroyed the salutation. 

But what do I care if they rage or rave? I shall not pre- 
vent them from translating as they please; but I also shall 
translate, not as they please, but as I please. If there is any- 
one who will not have it, let him let it alone and keep his 
criticism to himself, for I shall neither see nor hear it. They 
need bear no responsibility and give no account for my trans- 
lating. Listen, well, to this ! I shall say, "gracious Mary" and 
"dear Mary," and let them say "Mary full of grace." One 
who knows German knows very well what a tender, fine word 
that is : the dear Mary, the dear God, the dear emperor, the 
dear prince, the dear man, the dear child. I do not know 
whether this word "dear" can be said in Latin or other lan- 
guages so tenderly that it rings through the heart/ by all the 
senses, as it does in our language. 

I believe that St. Luke, a master of the Greek and Hebrew 
tongues, wanted to render the Hebrew word that the angel 
used and make its meaning clear by the Greek k e c h a r i - 
tomene ; and I think that the angel Gabriel spoke with Dan - 
Mary as he spoke with Daniel, when he called him H a m u - 9:23 

rfJ!?^ HoldseHge, cf. Weksacker's Begnadigte and Moffett'a 
"God favored one 1 *! 
3 The Ave Maria. 

* There is no English equivalent for Luther's Gott griisse dich, 
dta Hebe M<a r i a , which is altogether informal. 

* D a a also dringe u a d klinge y n n s hertz. 

18 On Translating: An Open Letter 

doth and Ish hamudoth, vir desidiorum, 1 that 
"Dear Daniel" ; for that is Gabriel's way of speaking as we 
see in Daniel Now if I were to translate the angel's words 
literally by the asses' science, I should have to say, "Daniel, 
thou man of desires." 2 That would be pretty German ! A 
German hears, indeed, that L ii s t e and Begierung are 
German words, though not pure German words, for Lust 
and B e g i e r would be better. But when the words are 
thus put together in the phrase "man of desires/' no German 
knows what is said. He thinks, perhaps, that Daniel was full 
of evil desires. That is fine translating ! Therefore, I must 
let the literal words go and seek to learn how the German 
says what the Hebrew means by IshHamudoth. Then 
I find that the German says, "Dear Daniel," "Dear Mary," or 
"gracious maid," "pretty maiden," "gentle girl." A trans- 
lator must have a great store of words, so that they ma) 7 " be 
on hand when one word does not fit in every place. 

And why shall I speak much or long about translating? 
If I were to tell the reasons for all my words and the ideas 
that were back of their use, I should need a year to write it. 
I have learned by experience what an art and what labor 
translating is; therefore I will suffer no papal ass or mule 
to be my judge or critic, for they have never tried it. He who 
will none of my translating, may let it alone ; if anyone dis- 
likes it or criticizes it without my knowledge and consent, the 
devil repay him ! If it is to be criticized, I shall do it myself ; 
if I do not do it, then let them leave my translation in peace, 
and let each of them make for himself one that suits him ; 
I bid him good-bye. 
Luther's This I can testify with a good conscience, I have been 
faithful and diligent to the utmost in this work and have 
never had a false thought.* I have not taken a single h e 1 - 
I e r f or it, or sought one, or made one by it. Nor have I had 
any intention to win honor by it, that God, my Lord, knows, 
but I have done it as a service to the dear Christians and 

1 English A. V. & R. V., "Greatly beloved." 

"Daniel, du man der begierungen, oder, Daniel, du 
man der luste. 

* i.e. Never any purpose to falsify. 

On Translating: An Open Letter 19 

to the honor of One who sitteth above, who blesses me so 
much every hour of my life that, if I had translated a thou- 
sand times as much or as diligently, I still should not deserve 
to live a single hour or have a sound eye. All that I am and 
have is of His grace and mercy, nay, of His dear blood and 
His bitter sweat. Therefore, God willing, all of it shall 
serve to His honor, joyfully and sincerely. Scrawlers and 
papal asses may abuse me, but pious Christians and Christ, 
their Lord, praise me ! and I am repaid all too richly, if only 
one single Christian recognizes me as a faithful workman. 
I care nothing for the papal asses ; they are not worthy to 
recognize my work, and it would grieve me to the bottom of 
my heart, if they praised me. Their abuse is my highest 
glory and honor. Still, I would be a doctor, nay, a wonderful 
doctor ; and that name they shall not take from me till the 
Last Day, that I know for sure. 

On the other hand, I have not disregarded literal meanings 
too freely, but with my helpers, I have been very careful to 
see that when a passage is important, I have kept the literal 
meaning, and not departed freely from it. For example, in 
John vi, Christ says, "Him hath God the Father sealed." It 6:2J 
would have been better German to say, "On him hath God 
the Father put His mark/' or "It is he whom God the Father 
means." But I preferred to do violence to the German lan- 
guage, rather than depart from the words. Translating is 
not an art that everyone can practice, as the mad saints 
think; it requires a right pious, faithful, diligent, God- 
fearing, experienced, practiced heart. Therefore I hold 
that no false Christian, or sectarian, 1 can be a faithful trans- 
lator. That is shown in the translation of the Prophets made 
at Worms.* It has been carefully done and approaches my 
German very closely; but Jews had a hand in it, and they do 
not show sufficient reverence for Christ; otherwise there is 
knowledge and care enough in it So much for translating 
and the nature of the languages ! 

*Rottengeit. "a radical." 

!& translation of the prophets made by Ludwi H*tzer and Hans Denck and 
published at Worms, in 1527. The translators were antitriiutarians, which may 
account for Luther's belief that "Jews had a hand in it." On Hattzer and 
Denck see articlet in Ralencyk. 

20 On Translating: An Open Letter 

Rom. Now, however, I was not only relying on the nature of the 
languages and following that when, in Romans iii, I inserted 
Th* the word s o 1 u m, "only," but the text itself and the sense of 
^" "^ au ^ demanded it and forced it upon me. He is dealing, 
in that passage, with the main point of Christian doctrine, 
viz., that we are justified by faith in Christ, without any 
works of the law, and he cuts away all works so completely, 
as even to say that the works of the law, though it is God's 
law and His Word, do not help us to righteousness. He 
cites Abraham as an example and says that he was justified 
so entirely without works, that even the highest work, which 
had then been newly commanded by God, before and above 
all other works, namely circumcision, did not help him to 
righteousness, but he was justified by faith, without circum- 

Rom. 4:2cision and without any works at all. So he says, in Chapter 
iv, "If Abraham was justified by works, he may glory, but 
not before God." But when works are so completely cut 
away, the meaning of it must be that faith alone justifies, 
and one who would speak plainly and clearly about this cut- 
ting away of all works, must say, "Faith alone justifies us, 
and hot works." The matter itself, and not the nature of the 
language only, compels this translation. 

"Nay," say they, "it has an offensive sound, and the com- 
mon P^pl 6 understand it to mean that they need do no good 
Works works." Dear sir, what are we to say? Is it not much more 
offensive that St. Paul himself does not say "faith alone," 
but makes it even plainer and goes to the very limit, 1 and says 
"Without the works of, the law" ? In Galatians i, also, and 

GaL 2:16 in many other places, he says "Not by the works of the law." 
A gloss 3 might be found for the words "faith alone," but the 
words "without the works of the law" are so plain and offen- 
sive and scandalous that they cannot be helped out by any 
gloss. How much rather might people learn not to do any 
good works, when they hear this preaching about works put 
in such plain, strong words : "No works," "without works," 
"not by works" ! If it is not offensive when one preaches 

1 Schuttet wol grober era,us u n d stosset dcm f a s s den 
boden a u s . 
a i.e. An interpretation distorting the real meaning. 

On Translating: An Open Letter 21 

"without works/' "no works," "not by works," why should it 
be offensive when one preaches, "by faith alone" ? 

And what is still more of an offense, St. Paul does not 
reject simple, common works, but "the works of the law." 
From that it would be quite possible for someone to take 
offense and say that the law is condemned and accursed 
before God, and we ought to do nothing but evil, as the peo- 
ple said, in Romans iii, "Let us do evil that good may come." 
This is the very thing that a spirit of discord 1 began to do 
in our time. Dear fellow, St. Paul and we wanted to give 
this offense, and we preach so strongly against works and in- 
sist on faith alone, for no other reason than that people may 
be offended and stumble and fall, in order that they may 
learn to know that they do not become righteous by good 
works, ^but only by Christ's death and resurrection. Now if 
they cannot become righteous by the good works of the law, 
how much less shall they become righteous by bad works, 
and without the law! It does not follow, therefore, that be- 
cause good works do not help, bad works do help; any more 
than it follows that because the sun cannot help a blind man 
to .see, night and darkness must, therefore, help him to see. 

I am surprised that anyone can make such a fuss over a 
matter as evident as this. Tell me whether Christ's death 
and resurrection are works of ours that we are to do, or not. 
They are not our works or the works of any law. Now it is 
only Christ's death and resurrection that make us free from 
sin, and righteous, as Paul says in Romans iv, "He died for 
our sins and rose for our justification." Tell me, further, 
what is the work by which we seize and hold Christ's death 
and resurrection ? It cannot be any external work, but only 
the eternal faith that is in the heart. Faith alone, nay, all 
alone, without any works, seizes this death and resurrection 
when it is preached by the Gospel. Why then, this raging 
and raving, this heretic making and burning at the stake, 
when the case is so plain and well founded, and it is proved 
that faith alone seizes Christ's death and resurrection, with- 
out any works, and that His death and resurrection are our 

*Ein rotten geyst. 

22 On Translating: An Open Letter 

life and our righteousness? Since, then, it is so clear that 
only faith brings us, grasps for us, and gives us this life and 
righteousness, why should we not say so? It is no heresy 
that faith alone lays hold on Christ and gives life; and yet 
it must be heresy, if anyone says it. Are they not mad, 
foolish, and quite beside themselves? They admit that the 
thing is right, but brand the saying of the thing as wrong, 
though nothing can be both right and wrong at the same 

I am not the only one or the first to say that faith alone 
justifies. Ambrose said it before me, and Augustine and 
many others; and if a man is going to read St. Paul and 
understand him, he will have to say the same thing and can 
say nothing else. Paul's words are too strong ; they endure 
no works, none at all; and if it is not a work, it must be 
faith alone. How could it be such a fine, improving inoffen- 
sive doctrine, if people were taught that they might become 
righteous by works, beside faith? That would be as much 
as to say that it was not Christ's death alone that takes away 
our sins, but that our works, too, did something toward it ; 
and it would be a fine honoring of Christ's death to say that 
our works helped it and could do that which He does, and 
that we were good and strong like Him. This is of the devil, 
who cannot leave the blood of Christ without abuse ! 

The matter itself demands, then, that it be said, "Faith 
alone justifies/* and the nature of our German language 
teaches us to express it that way. I have the precedent of 
the holy Fathers also, and the peril of the people compels 
me to it, so that they may not continue to hang upon works 
and be without faith, and lose Christ, especially in these days, 
when they have been so long accustomed to works and have 
to be torn away from them by force, Therefore, it is not 
only right but highly necessary to speak out as plainly and 
fully as possible, and say, "Faith alone, without works, justi- 
fies." I am only sorry that I did not also add the words 
alle and aller, and say, "without any works of any 
laws," so that it would have been said fully and roundly. 
Therefore it shall stay in my New Testament and, though all 


On Translating: An Open Letter 23 

the papal asses become mad and foolish, they shall not get 
it out. 

Let this be enough for the present. If God gives me grace, 
I shall have more to say about it in the tract Onjustifi- 
cation, 1 

Coming to the second question, 3 whether the departed saints 
pray for us, I shall give you only a brief answer, for I have 
it in mind to publish a sermon on the angels, 8 in which, God g. t 
willing ! I shall treat this point further. * m * 

In the first place, you know that under the papacy it is 
taught that the saints in heaven do pray for us, though we 
cannot know this, since the Scriptures tell us no such thing. 
Not only so, but the saints have been made gods, so that they 
have to be our patrons, on whom we call, even though some 
of them have never existed. To each of these saints some 
special power and might have been ascribed. One has power 
over fire, another over water, another over pestilence, fever 
and all kinds of disease. Indeed it seems that God has to be 
idle and let the saints work and act in His stead. This 
abomination the papists themselves now feel, and they are 
quietly pulling in their pipes, and adorning themselves now 
with this teaching about the intercession of the saints. I 
shall defer this subject for the present; but that will not 
matter; I shall not forget it and allow their self -adornment 
to go unpunished. 

In the second place, you know that there is not a single 
word of God commanding us to call on either angels or saints 
to intercede for us, and we have no example of it in the 
Scriptures, There we find that the angels spoke with the fa- 
thers and the prophets but none of these angels was asked to 
intercede for them. So Jacob, the father of them all, did not Gen< 32: 
ask the angel, with whom he fought, for any intercession, but 24ff. 

tract was never completed. There are scxme notes for it extant. Cf. 
Weimar Ed., XXX a , 652 ff. 

a Cf. above, p. 10. 

* Luther preached such a sermon at Coburg on the day of St. Michael and 
All Angels (September 29), 1530. It was published the next year, but has 
nothing to say about the intercession of saints. The sermon in in Weimar 
Ed.XXXII, 111 ff. 

24 On Translating: An Open Letter 

only took a blessing from him. On the contrary, we find, in 
Kev. the Apocalypse, that the angel would not allow himself to be 
22:9 worshiped by John, Thus the worship of saints shows it- 
self to be a mere trumpery of men and an invention of their 
own, outside the Word of God and the Scriptures. 

It is not proper, however, for us to undertake anything in 
the way of worship without God's Word, and one who does 
so is tempting God. Therefore it is not to be advised or 
endured that one should call upon the departed saints to 
intercede for him or should teach others to' do it ; but it is 
rather to be condemned and others are to be taught to avoid 
it. For this reason I, too, shall not advise it and so burden 
my conscience with other peoples' iniquities. It was exceed- 
ingly bitter for me to tear myself away from the worship of 
the saints, for I was steeped and fairly drowned in it. But 
the light of the Gospel is now so clear that henceforth no one 
has any excuse to remain in darkness. We all know very 
well what we ought to do. 

Moreover, this is, in itself, a dangerous and offense-giving 
service, because people are easily accustomed to turning from 
Christ and quickly learn to put more confidence in the saints 
than in Christ Himself. Our nature is, in any case, all too 
prone to flee from God and Christ, and to trust in men ; nay, 
it is exceedingly hard for one to learn to trust in God and 
Christ, though we have vowed 1 and are in duty bound to do 
so. Therefore this offense is not to be endured, so that weak 
and fleshly people may not begin an idolatry, against the First 
Commandment and against our baptism. Be satisfied to turn 
confidence and trust away from the saints, to Christ, both by 
teaching and practice- Even then there are difficulties and 
hindrances enough. There is no need to paint the devil on 
the door; he will be on hand. 

Finally, we are certain that God is not angry with us, and 
that we are secure, even if we do not call upon the saints to 
intercede for us. He has never commanded it. He says 
20:5 that He is a jealous God, Who visits their iniquities 6n 
those who da not keep His commandments ; but here there 

1 ie. in baptism. See below and Vol. I, pp. fiSff, 

On Translating: An Open Letter 25 

is^ no commandment and therefore no wrath to be feared. 
Since, then, there is on this side security and on that side 
great danger and offense against God's Word, why should we 
betake ourselves from security into danger, since we have 
no word of God to hold us, strengthen us, and rescue us in 
that need? For it is written, "He who gladly runs into dan- 
ger shall perish therein," 1 and God's command says, "Thou Deut 
shalt not tempt the Lord thy God/' 6 :ie 

"Nay/' say they, "that way you condemn the whole 
Church, 3 which has hitherto observed this practice every- 
where." I reply : I know full well that the priests and monks 
seek this cloak for their abominations and want to put off on 
the Church the damage that they have done by their own 
neglect, so that if we say, "The Church does not err," we 
will be saying at the same time that they do not err, and thus 
they may not be accused of any lies or errors, since that is 
what the Church holds. Thus no pilgrimage can be wrong, 
however plainly the devil is along; no- indulgence, however 
gross the lies that are told about it. In a word, there is 
nothing there but holiness. Therefore in answering them, 
you should say that this is not a question of who is and who 
is not condemned. They inject this foreign question in order 
to lead us away from our case. We are now discussing God's 
Word; what the Church is or does belongs elsewhere; the 
question here is, what is or is not God's Word; what is not 
God's Word does not make a Church. 

We read that in the days of Elijah the prophet there was 
no public proclamation of God's Word and no worship of j Kin 
God in the whole people of Israel, as he says, "Lord, they 9:10* 
have slain Thy prophets and overthrown Thine altars, and 
I am left all alone." Here King Ahab and others might have 
said, "Elijah, with such language you condemn the whole 
people of God." But at the same time God had preserved 
seven thousand. How, then? Do you not think that God 
can now preserve His own under the papacy, even though 
the priests and monks have been the devils' teachers in the 

1 Ecdemaaticus 3 : 26. 

3 Here and throughout this passage, die Christenheit. 

26 On Translating: An Open Letter 

Church and have gone to hell? Many children and young 
people have died in Christ ; for even under Antichrist, Christ 
has with might preserved baptism, the bare text 1 of the Gos- 
pel in the pulpit, the Lord's Prayer, and the Creed, so as to 
preserve many of His Christians and thus preserve His 
Church; and He has said nothing about this to the devil's 

And even though the Christians have done some bits of 
papal abomination, the papal asses have not proved by this 
that the Christians did it gladly ; still less does it prove that 
the Christians did right. All Christiansen err and sin, but 
God has taught them all to pray in the Lord's Prayer for 
forgiveness of sins, and has known well how to forgive the 
sins that they have had to commit unwillingly, unknowingly, 
and under compulsion of Antichrist, saying nothing about it 
to the priests and monks. But it can easily be proved that 
in all the world there has always been a great, secret murmur- 
ing and complaining against the clergy, as men who were 
not treating the Church aright, and the papal asses have val- 
iantly withstood such murmuring with fire and sword, down 
to the present day. This murmuring proves how gladly the 
Christians have seen these abominations and how right they 
have been. 

Nay, dear asses, come along and say that this is the teach- 
ing of the Church, these stinking lies which you villains 
and traitors have imposed by force upon the Church and 
over which you archmurderers have slain many Christians* 
Every letter of every papal law shows that nothing is ever 
taught with the counsel or by the will of the Church. There 
is nothing there but district e precipiendo man- 
damus. 3 That has been their Holy Ghost. This tyranny 
the Church has had to endure; it has been robbed of the Sac- 
rament and, by no fault of its own, it has been held in cap- 
tivity. 8 And the asses would palm off this intolerable tyranny 

iL,t tlie text ^tout corrupting glosses, or explanations. 

* JWe teach and strictly command." The phrase i common in papal I 

?^ lf *&* thcm * of Thc Babylonian Captivity, Vol. 
pp. 170 fl. 

On Translating: An Open Letter 27 

of theirs on us as a willing act of the Church and an example, 
and so adorn themselves. 

But this is getting too long. Let this be answer enough to 
your questions this time; more another time. Pardon this 
long letter. Christ our Lord be with us all. Amen. 


Your good friend. 
The Wilderness, 1 October 8, 1530. 

1 This manner of dating is common in Luther's Wartburg letters; it recurs 
in those written from Feste Cofcurg. 


(Ob Kriegsleute auch in seligem 
Stande sein konnen) 



The tract on the question Whether Soldiers, Too, Can 
Be Saved was suggested to Luther by Asa von Kram, 1 a counsellor 
of Duke Ernst of Brunswick-Liineberg. The suggestion was made 
when they met in Wittenberg immediately after the Peasants 7 War. 
It was renewed in January, 1526, when the two met again in Torgau. 3 
In October, 1526, the work was finished. 8 It was published before 
January 1, 1527. 

This tract is closely related to Luther's writings on the Peasants' 
War* and to those on government.* This whole group of writings 
should be read together, if Luther's views on the subjects here dis- 
cussed are to be thoroughly understood. 

Luther's view of war was that it is a necessary evil. It has a right- 
ful place in the world, but only as a means for the repression of 
wrong; when used for that purpose, it is justified. He attempts to 
guard this doctrine against abuse by distinguishing between three 
kinds of war, that of inferiors against superiors, which is never jus- 
tified ; that of equals against equals, which may be justified, but must 
never be war of aggression; and that of superiors against inferiors, 
which is simply an application of the police-power that belongs to the 
State. The classification of superiors, equals and inferiors is feudal 
and is based upon the distinctions which the feudal system made be- 
tween overlords and vassals. It was on the basis of these views that 
Luther resisted the attempt to create a league of Protestant princes to 
defend the Reformation. Prior to the '.Diet of Augsburg, he main- 
tamed that any effort on the part of the Emperor to repress Lutheran- 
ism should be met with merely passive resistance, but any attempt by 
the Catholic princes to repress it might be resisted actively. 6 

The text of this tract is found in Weimar Ed. , XIX, 623 ff. f 
Erlangeti Ed., XXII, 246 ff.; St. Louis Ed., X, 488 ff.; 
B e r 1 i n E d . , VII, 383 ff., CLEMEN III, 317 ff. 

For Literature, see the Introductions in Weimar and 
Berlin Eds. and KARL HOLL, Luther (1923), pp. 267 ff. 


* See SMITH & JACOBS, Luther's Correspondence, II, p. 385. 
a See Letter of Dedication, below. 
8 Cf. SMITH & JACOBS, 1 o c . c i t . 
*In this edition, Vol. IV, pp. 219 ff. 

"On Temporal Government. Vol. Ill,, pp. 228 ff and Ex- 
P rS a 10 r f 'Ar 6 LXXXII Psalm, Vol. 'iV, pp. 287 ff. 
Cf. DE WETTE, III, 319; SMITH & JACOBS, op., 435 ff 

Vol. V-3. (31) 





Letter of Grace and peace in Christ, worshipful and honorable dear 
Dedication s j r anc j f r i en d. "When you were recently at Wittenberg at the 
time of the Elector's entry, we talked of the conditions of the 
soldiers, and in the course of the conversation many points 
were raised touching matters of conscience. Thereupon you 
and others asked me to publish a written opinion on this sub- 
ject, because there are many who are offended by this occu- 
pation. Some of them have doubts, others give themselves 
up so completely for lost that they inquire no longer about 
God, and cast soul and conscience to the winds. I myself 
have heard some of these fellows say that if they were to 
remember these things they could never go to war ; as though 
war were such a great thing that we are not to think about 
God and the soul when war is afoot ; and yet when we are in 
danger of death, that is the very time when we ought most 
to be mindful of God and the soul. 

In order, then, that our best advice may be given to these 
weak and timid and doubting consciences, and that the heed- 
less may receive better instruction, I complied with your 
request and promised this book. For if a man goes into 
battle with a good and well-instructed conscience, he fights 
well, since a good conscience never fails to make great cour- 
age and a bold heart; but when the heart is bold and the 
spirit confident, the fist is all the stronger, horse and man are 
brisker, everything turns out better, and all the chances bet- 
ter favor the victory which God then gives. On the other 
hand, if the conscience is timid and uncertain, then the heart 


Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 33 

cannot be right bold. It is impossible for a bad conscience 
not to make men cowardly and fearful, as Moses says to his 
Jews, "If you are disobedient, God will give you a fearful 28:25 
heart, so that when you go out one way against your enemies, 
you shall be scattered seven ways, and have no good for- 
tune." Then horse and man are lazy and unprepared, and 
lack vigor for the attack, and at last are defeated. As for the 
rude and heedless consciences in the company, those who 
are called daredevils and foolhardy fellows, with them 
everything goes at haphazard, whether they win or lose. For 
as it turns out for those who have good or bad consciences, 
so it turns out for these rude beasts, too, because they are in 
the army. Victory is not given on their account, for they 
are only the shells and not the true kernel of the army. 

Accordingly, I now send you this opinion of mine, given 
according to the power that God has granted me, so that 
you and others who would like to go to war in such a way as 
not to lose God's favor and eternal life, may know how to 
arm and how to guide yourselves. God's grace be with you. 


In the first place, a distinction must be made between an 
occupation and the man who is in it, between a work and the 
^^ Q ^ ^ n OCCU p at i on or a wor k can be good and right in 
itself and yet be bad and wrong if the man in the occupation, 
or the doer of the work is not good and right, or does not do 
his duty rightly. The office of a judge is a precious and 
godly office, whether it be that ofMundrichteror that 
ofFaustrichter, 1 whom we call executioner. But when 
the office is assumed by one to whom it has not been com- 
mitted or by one who, though it has been committed to him, 
discharges its duties with a view to securing money or favor, 
then it is no longer right or good. The married state, also, 
is precious and godly, but there is many a rascal and knave in 
it. It is just the same way with the occupation or work of 
the soldier; in itself it is right and godly, but we must see 
to it that the persons who are in the occupation and who do 
the work are the right kind of persons, godly and upright. 
This we shall hear. 

In the second place, I would have it understood that I 
am not speaking, this time, about the righteousness that 
makes men good in the sight of God. For the only thing that 
can do that is faith in Jesus Christ, granted and given us by 
the grace of God alone, without any works or merits of our 
The QU- own, as I have written and taught so often and so much in, 
tiont* other places; but I am speaking here about external right- 
comd- e ousness which is to be sought in offices and works. In 
can a* other words, to put it plainly, I am dealing here with such 
Christian questions as these, whether the Christian faith, by which 
we are accounted righteous before God can tolerate, along- 
side it, that I be a soldier, go to war and slay and stab, rob 

1 The MundrJchter is the judge who pronounces the sentence; the 
Faustrlchter ia the one who executes it. 


Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 35 

and burn, as one does to enemies, by military law, in times of 
war; whether this work is sin or wrong, about which one 
should have scruples before God; or whether a Christian 
must only do good and love, and kill no one, nor do anyone 
any harm. I say that this office or work, even though it 
were godly and right, can nevertheless become bad and 
wrong, if the person engaged in it is wrong and bad. 

In the third place, it is not my intention to explain here at 
length how the occupation and work of a soldier is in itself 
right ^ and godly, because I have written quite enough about 
that in the book OnTemporalGoverntnentJ 1 For 
I might boast here that, since the time of the Apostles, the 
temporal sword and temporal government have never been 
so clearly described or so highly praised as by me. This 
even my enemies must admit, but the reward and honorable 
thanks that I have earned by it are to have my doctrine called 
seditious, and condemned as resistance to rulers. God be 
praised for that! For the very fact that the sword has been 
instituted of God to punish the evil and protect the good and 
preserve peace, (Romans xiii, I Peter iii) is proof, power- Rom - 13: 
fid, and sufficient, that fighting and slaying and the other : P ^ 2: 
things that war-times and martial law bring with them, have is'ff. " 
been instituted by God. What else is war than the punish- what 
ment of wrong and evil? Why does anyone go to war, iWat 
except because he desires peace and obedience? 

Although slaying and robbing do not seem to be a work of 
love, and therefore a simple man thinks it not a Christian 
thing to do, yet in truth even this is a work of love. By 
way of illustration, a good physician, when a disease is so 
bad and so great that he has to cut off a hand, foot, ear, eye, 
or let it decay, does so, in order to save the body. Looked at 
from the point of view of the member that he cuts off, he 
seems a cruel and merciless man; but looked at from the 
point of view of the body, which he intends to save, it turns 
out that he is a fine and true man and does a work that is 
good and Christian, as far as it goes. In the same way, 
when I think of the office of soldier, how it punishes the 

1 In this edition, Vol. Ill, pp, 228 ff. 

36 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

wicked, slays the unjust, and creates so much misery, it seems 
an unchristian work and entirely contrary to Christian love ; 
but if I think of how it protects the good and keeps and pre- 
serves house and home, wife and child, property and honor 
and peace, then it appears how precious and godly this work 
is, and I observe that it cuts off a leg or a hand, so that the 
whole body may not perish. For if the sword were not on 
guard to preserve peace, everything in the world must go to 
ruin because of lack of peace. Therefore, such a war is only 
a little, brief lack of peace that prevents an everlasting and 
immeasurable lack of peace, a small misfortune that prevents 
a great misfortune. 

When men write about war, then, and say that it is a 
great plague, that is all true; but they should also see how 
great the plague is that it prevents. If people were good, 
and glad to keep peace, war would be the greatest plague on 
earth ; but what are you going to do with the fact that people 
will not keep peace, but rob, steal, kill, outrage women and 
children, and take away property and honor? The small 
lack of peace, called war, or the sword, must set a check 
upon this universal, world-wide lack of peace, before which 
no one could stand. Therefore God honors the sword so 
highly that He calls it His own ordinance, and will not have 
men say or imagine that they have invented it or instituted 
it. For the hand that wields this sword and slays with it 
is then no more man's hand, but God's, and it is not man, 
but God, who hangs, tortures, beheads, slays and fights. All 
these are His works and His judgments. In a word, in 
thinking of the soldier's office, we must not have regard to 
the slaying, burning, smiting, seizing, etc. That is what 
the narrow, simple eyes of children do, when they see in the 
physician only a man who cuts off hands or saws off legs, 
but do not see that he does it to save the whole body. So, 
too, we must look at the office of the soldier, or the sword, 
with grown-up eyes, and see why it slays and acts so cruelly. 
Then it will prove itself to be an office that, in itself, is 
godly, as needful and useful to the world as eating and 
drinking or any other work. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 37 

There are some who abuse this office, and slay and smite 
needlessly, for no other reason than because they want to; 
but that is the fault of the persons, not of the office, for 
where is there an office or a work or any other thing so 
good ^ that self-willed, wicked people do not abuse it? They 
are like crazy physicians who would cut off a sound hand, 
without necessity and just because they wanted to; nay, 
they are a part of that universal lack of peace which must 
be prevented by right war and sword, and forced into peace. 
It always happens, and always has happened that those 
who begin war unnecessarily are beaten, for they cannot 
finally escape God's judgment, that is, His sword; it finds 
them and strikes them at last, as happened to the peasants 
in the revolt. 1 La3ce 

In confirmation of this, we have the greatest preacher 
and teacher, next to Christ, namely, John the Baptist (Luke 
iii) who, when soldiers came to him and asked what they 
should do, did not condemn their occupation and did not bid W 

them desist from it, but rather confirmed it and said, "Be 

. . - ,, * in Scrip- 

content with your wages and do no one violence or wrong." tan 
Thus he praised the profession of arms and, at the same 
time, forbade the abuse of it. For the abuse does not 
aff ect the office. Thus Christ, when He stood before Pilate, 
admitted that war was not wrong, when He said, "Were I Jof i :36 
king of this world, then would my servants fight that I 
should not be handed over to the Jews." Here, too, belong 
all the stories of war in Old Testament, the stories of 
Abraham, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, David, and 
all the Kings in the people of Israel. If war and the oc- 
cupation of arms were in itself wrong and displeasing to 
God, we should have to condemn Abraham, Moses, Joshua, 
David, and all the rest of the holy fathers, kings, and princes, 
who served God in this occupation and are of high renown 
in Scripture because of this work. All this is well-known 
to all who have read even a little in Holy Scripture, and 
there is no need to offer further proof of it here. 

Someone, perhaps, would say at this point that the case 

1 Of 1525, see Vol. IV r pp. 219 ff. 

38 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

was different with the holy fathers, because God had sep- 
arated them from the other nations by choosing them as 
His people, and had bidden them fight; and that, for this 
reason, their example was insufficient for a Christian under 
the New Testament, since they had God's command and 
fought in obedience to God, while we have no command to 
fight, but rather to suffer, and put up with everything. This 
objection is answered clearly enough by St. Peter and St. 
Paul, both of whom command obedience to worldly or- 
dinances and to the commandments of worldly rulers even 
under the New Testament, and we have heard above that 
St. John the Baptist taught soldiers, as a Christian teacher, 
and yet allowed them to remain soldiers, only so that they 
did not abuse their occupation, did no one violence or 
wrong, and were content with their wages. Therefore, even 
under the New Testament, the sword is established by God's 
word and commandment, and those who use it aright and 
fight obediently, serve God thereby and are obedient to His 

Think for yourself ! If we were to give way on this paint 
and admit that war was wrong in itself, we would then have 
to give way on all other points and allow that the use of the 
sword was entirely wrong. For if the sword is a wrong 
thing when used for fighting, it would also be a wrong 
thing when used for punishing evil-doers and keeping the 
peace ; in a word everything it does would have to be wrong. 
For what is just war, except the punishment of evil-doers 
and the maintenance of peace? If one punishes a thief or a 
murderer or an adulterer, that is punishment inflicted on a 
single evil-doer; but in a just war one punishes at one time 
a whole great crowd of evil-doers, who* are doing harm in 
proportion to the size of the crowd. If, therefore, one work 
of the sword is good and right, they are all right and good, 

Rom. for the sword is a sword and not a fox-tail, 1 and it is called, 
13:4 in Romans xiii, "The wrath of God." 

Matt. But in reply to their objection that Christians are not com- 
5:39 manded to fight and that examples are not enough, because 

1 The use of the expression "fox-tail" for punishment that consist* only in 
a gesture is not uncommon with Luther. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 39 

they have a teaching from Christ that they are not to resist 
evil, but suffer all things, in reply to this I have made 
sufficient answer in my book On Temporal Author- 
i t y. 1 For Christians, indeed, do not fight and have no worldly 
rulers among them. Their government is a spiritual govern- 
ment, and, according to the Spirit, they are subjects of no one 
but Christ. Nevertheless, so far as body and property are con- 
cerned, they are subject to worldly rulers and owe them obedi- 
ence. If worldly rulers call on them to fight, then they ought 
to and must fight, and be obedient, not as Christians but as 
members of the state and obedient subjects, as regards the 
body and temporal possessions. Therefore, when they 
fight, they do it not for themselves or on their own account, 
but as a service and act of obedience to the rulers under 
whom they are, as St. Paul writes to Titus, "They shall Tit. 3: i 
obey the rulers." 

That is the sum and substance of it. The sword is in it- 
self right and is a divine and useful ordinance, which God 
will have not despised, but feared, honored, and obeyed, on 
pain of vengeance, as Paul says, in Romans xiii. For He Rom - 
has established two kinds of government among men. The 13:4 
one is spiritual; it has no sword, but it has the Word, by 
means of which men are to become good and righteous, so 
that with this righteousness they may attain everlasting life. 
This righteousness He administers through the Word, which 
He has committed to the preachers. The other is worldly 
government, through the sword, which aims to keep peace 
among men, and this He rewards with temporal blessing. 
For He gives to rulers so much property, honor, and power, 
to be possessed by them above others, in order that they may 
serve Him by administering this righteousness. Thus God 
Himself is the founder, lord, master, protector, and rewarder 
of both kinds of righteousness. There is no human or- 
dinance or authority in either, but each is altogether a divine 

Since, then, it is beyond doubt that the occupation 3 is, 

*In this edition. Vol. Ill, pp. 22S ff. 
"i.e. Of a soldier. 

40 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

in itself a right and godly thing, we will now discuss the 
Areto persons who are in it and the use they make of their posi- 

tion; for it is most important to know who is to use this 
office and how he is to use it. And here enters the fact 
that when we try to set up fixed rules and laws for this 
matter, there arise so many cases and exceptions that it is 
very difficult, or even impossible, to decide everything ac- 
curately and equitably. This is the case with all laws ; they 
can never be fixed so certainly and so justly that cases do 
not arise which deserve to be made exceptions. If the ex* 
ceptions are not made, and the law is strictly followed, it 
would be the very greatest wrong; as the heathen Terence 
says, "The strictest law is the greatest wrong" ;* and Solomon 
7 ;1 g. also teaches in his Ecclesiastes, that we are not to be all too 
10:1 right, but at times to be unwise. 

By way of illustration: In the recent rebellion of the 
peasants, 3 there were some who were drawn into it against 
their will. These were especially people who were well-to- 
do, for the rebellion struck the rich, as well as the rulers, 
and it may fairly be assumed that no rich man favored the 
rebellion. At all events, there were some who had to go 
along without their own consent. Some, too, yielded to this 
compulsion, thinking that they could check the mad mob 
and with good counsel, hinder somewhat their wicked pur- 
pose and keep them from doing so much evil, thus rendering 
a service to themselves and to the rulers. Others, again, 
were drawn in by permission of their lords, whom they asked 
about it in advance; and there may have been other similar 
cases. For no one can imagine all of them, or comprise 
them all in the law. 

La W Here, then, stands the law and says, "All rebels are 

d guilty of death and these three kinds of men were found 
Bqilit7 among the rebellious crowd, in the very act of rebellion." 
What shall we do to them? If we are to allow no excep- 
tions a^nd let the law take its strict course, they must die 
just like the others, who had a guilty heart and will in their 

1 "Summum jus, sum ma injuria. Heautontimarou- 
m e n o s IV, 5. 
a Cf. Vol. IV, pp. 219 ff. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 41 

act of rebellion, although those of whom we are speaking 
had an innocent heart and a good will. Some of our knight- 
lets 1 did this, especially to rich men, when they thought they 
could rob them, if they could say to them, "You, too, were 
in the crowd; you must go out." 3 In this way they have 
done great wrong to many people and shed innocent blood, 
made widows and orphans, and taken their property be- 
sides; and they are of the nobility. Yes, of the nobility! 
The excrement of the eagle can boast that it comes from 
the eagle's body 8 though it stinks and is useless ; and so these 
men can also be of the nobility. We Germans are Ger- 
mans, and stay Germans ; that is, swine and senseless beasts. 
And so I say now that, in cases like those of the three kinds 
mentioned, the law ought to yield and justice take its place. 
For the law says dryly, "Rebellion is punishable with death, 
as crimen laesae majestatis, a sin against the 
rulers."* But justice says, "Yes, dear law, it is as you say; 
but it can happen that two men do like acts with unlike 
hearts and intentions." Judas, for example, kissed Christ 
in the garden ; this was outwardly a good work ; but his heart 
was bad and betrayed his Lord with the good work that 
Christ and His disciples did to one another at other times 
with a good heart. Again, Peter sat down by the fire with 22:55 
the servants of Annas and warmed himself with the god- 
less, and that was not good. Now if the law were to be 
applied strictly, Judas would have to be a good man and 
Peter a rascal; but Judas' heart was bad and Peter's was 
good; therefore justice must, in this case, be mistress of the 

Therefore those who were among the rebels with good 
intentidns justice not only acquits, but holds worthy of 
double grace. They are just like the pious Hushai, the 
Archite, who joined the rebellious Absalom and acted obedi- 
ently, by David's orders, with the intention of helping David 

*Ju nckerlein, 

a i.e. r To death. 

* Luther's play cm the words A del, "nobility," and Adeler "eagle," is 
not translatable. 

4 **The crime of Taigk treason.** Under the Roman and feudal law, it was 
an offense against the person of the ruler- 

42 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

ii Sam. ari d checking Absalom, as it is all finely written in the second 
I6:i6ffik k f Samuel xv and xvi. Outwardly considered, Hushai, 
too, was a rebel, with Absalom, against David; but he 
earned great praise and honor everlastingly before God and 
all the world. If David had allowed this Hushai to be con- 
demned as a rebel, it would have been just as praiseworthy 
a deed as those which our princes and knightlets are now 
doing to equally innocent people, nay, to people who have 
deserved well. 

This virtue, or wisdom, which can and must guide and 
moderate the severity of law according to cases, and which 
judges the same deed to be good or evil according to the 
difference of heart or intention, this virtue is called in 
Greek epieikeia, in Latin aequitas; I call it 
Billigkeit. 1 For because law must be framed simply, 
in dry, short words, it cannot possibly embrace all the cases 
and the hindrances. Therefore, the judges and lords must 
be wise and pious in this matter and mete out reasonable 
justice, and let the law take its course, or set it aside, accord- 
ingly. The head of a household makes a law for his ser- 
vants, telling them what they are to do on this day or that ; 
there is the law, and the servant who does not keep it must 
take his punishment. Now one of them may be sick, or be 
otherwise hindered from keeping the law, by no fault of his 
own ; then the law is suspended, and he would be a mad head 
of a house who would punish a servant for that kind of neg- 
lect of duty. In like manner, all laws that regulate men's 
actions must be subject to justice, their mistress, because of 
the many, innumerable, various accidents that can happen, 
and that no one can anticipate or set down. 

Accordingly, we have the following to say of the persons 
who are affected by the law of war or who are occupied with 
war. First, War may be made by three kinds of people. 
An equal may make war against his equal, that is, of the two 
persons neither is the vassal or subject of the other, though 
the one may be less great or glorious or mighty than the 

* "Jtwtice." 



Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 43 

other. Or a superior may fight against his inferior. Or an 
inferior may fight against his superior. Let us take the 
third case. Here stands the law, and says, "No one shall 
fight or make war against his overlord; for a man owes his 
overlord obedience, honor and fear" (Romans xiii). If 
one chops over one's head, the chips fall in one's eyes, and 
as Solomon says, "He who throws stones in the air, upon 
his head they fall." That is the law in a nut-shell. God 
Himself has instituted it and men have accepted it, for it 
does not fit together that men shall both obey and resist, be 
subject and not put up with their lords. 

But we have already said that justice ought to be mistress 
of law, and where circumstances demand, guide the law, or 
even command and permit men to act against it. Therefore is There 
the question here is whether it can be just, i.e., whether a w * ht 
a^case can arise in which one can act against this law, be " 
disobedient to rulers and fight against them, depose them or 
put them in bonds. 

There is among us men a vice which is called f raus 1 ; 
that is, deception or trickery. If 'this vice of ours discovers 
that justice is superior to law, as has been said, then it 
(becomes altogether against the law and seeks and hunts day 
and night for some way to bring itself to market under the 
name and appearance of justice and thus sell itself, so that 
the law comes to nothing and fraud becomes the sweet thing 
that does everything it ought to do. Therefore, there is a 
proverb which says, Inventa lege, inventa est 
fraus legis, "When a law starts, Mistress Fraud is 
soon on hand." 

The heathen, because they knew nothing of God, did not 
know that temporal government is God's ordinance, for they 
held it as the good fortune and the deed of men arid there- 
fore they jumped right in here and thought that it was not 
only right, but also praisewprthy to depose, kill and drive out 
worthless and wicked rulers. Therefore, the Greeks, in 
public laws, promised jewels and presents to tyrannicides, 
that is, to those who stab or otherwise destroy a tyrant. The 
Romans in the days of their empire followed mightily after 

44 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

this example and themselves killed almost the majority of 
their emperors, so that in that great empire, almost no em- 
peror was ever slain by his enemies and yet few of them 
died in their beds a natural death. The people of Israel 
and Judah also slew and destroyed some of their kings. 

But these examples are not enough for us, for we are not 
asking here what the heathen or the Jews have done, but 
what is the right and the just thing to do, not only before 
God in the spirit, but also in the divine external ordinance 
of temporal government. For if today or tomorrow a people 
rises up and deposes their lord or slays him, well, that will 
happen, and the lords must expect it, if it is God's decree ; 
but it does not follow that for that reason it is a right and 
just act. I have never known a case of this kind that was 
just, and even now I cannot imagine one. The peasants in 
their rebellion alleged that the lords would not allow the 
Gospel to be preached and robbed the poor people, and, 
-therefore that they must be overthrown; but I have an- 
swered this by saying that although the lords did wrong in 
this, it would not therefore be just or right to do wrong in. 
return, that is, to be disobedient and destroy God's ordi- 
nance, which is not ours. On the contrary, we ought to 
suffer wrong and if prince or lord will not tolerate the 
Gospel, then we ought to go into another princedom where 
Matt, the Gospel is preached, as Christ says in Matthew x, "If 

10:23 you j n one ^ flee 

It is just, to be sure, that if a prince, king, or lord goes 
crazy, he should be deposed and put under restraint, for he 
is not to be considered a man since his reason is gone. Yes, 
you say a raving tyrant is crazy, too, or is to be considered 
even worse than a madman, for he does much more harm, 
That answer puts me in a tight place, for such a statement 
makes a great appearance and seems to be in accord with 
justice. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that the cases of 
amdmen and tyrants are not the same ; for a madman can 
r da nor tolerate anything reasonable, nor is there any 
for him because the light of reason has gone out. But 
however much of this kind of thing he does, knows 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 45 

that he does wrong. He has his conscience and his knowl- 
edge, and there is hope that he may do better, allow himself 
to be instructed, and learn, and follow advice, none of which 
things can be hoped for in a crazy man, who is like a clod or 
a stone. Moreover, such conduct has a bad result or sets a 
bad example. If it is called right to murder or drive out 
tyrants, the thing grows and it becomes a common sign of 
self-will to call men tyrants who are not tyrants, and even 
tto kill them if the mob takes a notion to do so. This the 
Roman histories show us. They killed many a fine emperor 
only because they did not like him or he did not do what 
they wanted, and did not let them be lords, and held them 
for their servants and monkeys as happened to Galba, Per- 
tinax, Gordian, Alexander and others. 1 

We cannot pipe much to the mob. It goes mad too 
quickly, and it is better to take ten ells from it than to 
allow to it a hand-breadth, nay a finger's-breadth in such a 
case, and it is better that the tyrants do the wrong a hundred 
times than that they once do wrong to the tyrants. If wrong 
is to be suffered, then it is better to suffer it from the rulers 
than that the rulers suffer it from their subjects. For the 
mob has no moderation and knows none, and in every indi- 
vidual in it there stick more than five tyrants. Now it is 
better to suffer wrong from one tyrant, that is, from the 
ruler, than from unnumbered tyrants, that is, from the mob. 

It is said that the Swiss, in earlier days, slew their over- 
lords and made themselves free, and the Danes have recently 
driven out their king, 3 and the cause in both cases has been 
the intolerable tyranny which their subjects had to suffer; 
but I have said above that I am not discussing here what the 
heathens do or have done, or anything that resembles their 
examples and history, but what one ought to do and can 
do with a good conscience, so that one is safe and sure that 
the thing he does is not in itself wrong before God. For I 
know well enough and I have read in a few histories how 

*A11 of these emperors were deposed in revolutions of the army; Galba in 
69 A. D.; Pertinax 193; Gordian 244; Alexander 235. 

* Christian II tfa* driven out of Denmark in 1523, after ten years on the 
throne of the thre Scandinavian kingdoms. 

46 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

often subjects have slain or driven out their rulers as the 
Jews did and the Greeks and the Romans, and God has 
allowed it to happen and has allowed them to grow and 
increase in spite of it. But at last there has always been a 
terrible end to it, for the Jews were finally suppressed and 
dispersed by the Assyrians, the Greeks by King Philip, the 
Romans by the Goths and the Lombards, the Swiss have 
paid for it dearly with much blood and they are paying for 
it yet, and it is easy to see what the outcome will be. The 
Danes, too, are not yet through with the business. But I see 
no lasting government except where rulers are held in honor. 
An illustration is the Persians, the Tartars and more of 
those peoples, who not only maintained themselves against 
the Romans with all their power, but H destroyed them and 
many other lands. 
uii9 My reason is this alone; namely, that God says, 'Ven- 

Matt geance is mine, I will repay," and again, "Judge not -" 
7:i Besides, it is strictly and often forbidden in the Old Testa- 

Exod. ment to curse rulers or speak evil of them, as in Exodus 
22:28 ^i^ "Thou shalt not curse the prince of thy people." Pau 

i Tim. j n i Timothy ii, teaches Christians to pray for rulers. Solo- 
mon teaches everywhere in his Proverbs and Ecclesiastes to 
obey the king and be subject to him. Now no one can deny 
that if subjects set themselves against their rulers, they 
revenge themselves and make themselves judges, which is 
not only against the ordinance and command of God, who 
will have judgment and vengeance belong to Him, but also 
against all natural law and justice. So it is said, "No one 
shall be his own judge/' and again, "He who strikes back 
is wrong." 

Here you will say, perhaps, "Yes, if everything is to be 
endured from the tyrants, you give them too much and their 
wickedness only becomes stronger and greater by such teach- 
ing. Is it to be endured then that every man's wife and child, 
body and goods, are to be in danger? Who can start any 
good thing if that is the way we are to live?" I reply: My 
teaching is not for you, if you will to do whatever you think 
good and whatever pleases you. Follow your own notion 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 47 

and slay all your lords, and see what good it does you. My 
teaching is only for those who would like to do right. To 
these I say that rulers are not to be opposed with violence 
and rebellion, as the Romans, the Greeks, the Swiss and the 
Danes have done; but there are other ways of dealing with 

In the first place, if they see that the rulers think so little 
of their soul's salvation that they rage and do wrong, of 
what importance is it that they ruin your property, body, 
wife and child? They cannot hurt your soul, and they do 
themselves more harm than they do you, because they damn 
their own souls and the ruin of body and property must then 
follow. Do you think that you are not already sufficiently 
revenged upon them? 

In the second place, what would you do if these rulers of 
yours were at war and not only your goods and wives and 
children, but you yourself must be broken, imprisoned, 
burned and slain for your lord's sake? Would you for that 
reason slay your lord ? How many fine people did Emperor 
Maximilian lose in war during his lifetime, but no one did 
anything to him for it; and if he had destroyed them by 
tyranny no more cruel deed would ever have been heard of. 
Nevertheless, he was the reason that they perished, for they 
were killed for his sake. How, then, does a raging tyrant 
differ from a perilous war which strikes many a fine and 
honest and innocent man? Nay, a wicked tyrant is more 
tolerable than a bad war, as you must admit if you inquire 
of your own reason and experience. I believe, indeed, that 
you would like to have peace and good days, but suppose 
God prevents you by war or tyrants ! Now, make up your 
mind for yourself whether you would rather have war or 
tyrants, for you have deserved both, and are guilty before 
God, but we are such fellows that we want to be knaves 
and stay in sin, and yet want to avoid the punishments for 
sin even to resist it and defend our sin. We shall succeed 
as well as the dog who bites the spikes. 1 

1 Feasibly, "who attacks a hedge-hog." (Clemen). 
Vol. V 4. 

48 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

?* In the third place, if the rulers are bad, what of it? God 

mentof * s there, and He has fire, water, iron, stone and numberless 

wicked ways of killing. How quickly He has slain a tyrant! He 

3 ^ aeara would do it, too, but our sins do not permit it; for He says 

34:3o i n ]b, "He letteth a knave rule because of the people's 

sins." It is easy enough to see that a knave rules, but no 

one is willing to see that he is ruling not because of his 

knavery, but because of the people's sin. The people do not 

look at their own sin, and think that the tyrant rules because 

of his knavery ; so blinded, perverse and mad is the world ! 

That is why things go as they went with the peasants in the 

revolt. They wanted to punish the sins of the rulers, just as 

though they were themselves pure and guiltless ; therefore, 

Ma"- God had to show them the beam in their eye in order to make 

them forget another's splinter. 

In the fourth place, the tyrants run the risk that, by 
God's decree, their subjects may rise up, as has been said, 
and slay them or drive them out. For we are here giving 
instruction to those who want to do what is right, and they 
are very few; the great multitude remain heathen, godless, 
and unchristian, and these, if God so decrees, set themselves 
wrongfully against the rulers and create disaster, as the 
Jews and Greeks and Romans often did. Therefore you 
have no right to complain that by our doctrine the tyrants 
and rulers gain security to do evil; nay, they are certainly 
not secure. We teach, to be sure, that they ought to be 
secure, whether they do good or evil; but we cannot give 
them this security or achieve it for them; for we cannot 
compel the multitude to follow our teaching, if God does not 
give us grace. We teach what we will, and the world does 
what it will. God must help, and we must teach those who 
are willing to do what is good and right so that they may 
help hold the multitude in check. Because of our teaching 
the lords are just as secure as they would be without our 
teaching; for unfortunately your complaint is unnecessary, 
since the most of the crowd do not listen to us and it rests 
with God and in God's hands alone to preserve the rulers, 
whom He alone has ordained. We experienced this in the 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 49 

peasants' rebellion. Therefore, do not be misled by the fact 
that the rulers are wicked; their punishment and disaster 
are nearer than you could ask. The tyrant Dionysius of 
Syracuse confessed that his life was like that of a man over 
whose head a sword hung by a silken thread and under whom 
a glowing fire was burning. 

In the fifth place, God has still another way to punish 
rulers, so that you have no need to revenge yourself. He 
can raise up foreign rulers, like the Goths against the 
Romans, the Assyrians against the Jews, etc., so that there 
is vengeance, punishment, and danger enough hanging over 
tyrants and rulers, and God does not allow them to be 
wicked and have peace and joy; He is right behind them, 
and has them between spurs and under bridle. This agrees, 
also, with the natural law that Christ teaches, in Matthew 
vii, "What ye would that people do to you, that do you to 
them." No father would be driven out by his own family, 
slain, or ruined because of his misdeeds (especially if the 
family did it out of disregard of authority and love of vio- 
lence, in order to revenge themselves and be judges in their 
own case) without previous complaint to a higher authority. 
It ought to be just as wrong for any subject to act against 
his tyrant. 

I must give an example or two of this. They should be 
noted, and it would be profitable to follow them. We read 

. ,- * ^ - r , 

of a widow who stood and prayed for her tyrant most 
devoutly, that God would let him live long, etc The tyrant 
heard it and was astonished because he well knew that he 
had done her much harm, and this prayer was unusual ; for 
prayers for tyrants are not commonly of that kind. He 
asked her why she prayed thus for him. She answered, "I 
had ten cows in your grandfather's time; he took two of 
them and I prayed against him that he might die, and your 
father became lord. It came to pass, and your father took 
three cows. I prayed again that you might become lord, and 
he might die. Now you have taken four cows, and so I am 
praying for you, for I am afraid that he who comes after 
you will take the last cow and everything that I have." The 

50 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

scholars, too, have a parable about a beggar who was full 
of wounds that flies got into, and sucked his blood and stung 
him. There came a merciful man who wanted to help him 
and drove all the flies away from him ; but he cried out and 
said, "What are you doing? Those flies were almost full 
and did not worry me so much ; now the hungry flies will 
come in their place and will plague me far worse." 

Do you understand these fables? To change rulers and 
improve rulers are two things as far apart as heaven and 
earth; changing may be easy, improving is doubtful and 
risky. Why? Because it is not in our will or power but 
only in the will and the hand of God. The mad mob, how- 
ever, does not ask so much how things can become better, 
but only that things may be changed; then if things are 
worse, they will want something still different. Thus they 
get bumble-bees for flies, and at last they get hornets for 
bumble-bees; like the frogs of old who could not put up 
with a log for lord; they got instead a stork that hacked 
them on the head and ate them/ A mad mob is a desperate, 
accursed thing ; no one can rule it as well as tyrants. They 
are the club tied to the dog's neck. If there were a better 
way to rule them, God would have set some other ordi- 
nance over them than a sword and tyrants. The sword 
shows what kind of children it has under it; namely, people 
who would be desperate knaves if they 'dared. 

Therefore, I advise everyone who would act in this matter 
with a good conscience and do what is right, that he be 
satisfied with the worldly rulers and make no attack upon 
them, seeing that worldly rulers cannot do harm to the soul, 
as clergy and false teachers do ; and let him follow the good 
David, who suffered as much violence from King Saul as 
you can. ever suffer, and yet would not lay a hand upon his 
king, as he ^could often have done, but commended the mat- 
ter to God, let things go as long as God would have them so, 
and endured to the end. If war or strife arise against your 

*Cf. Vol. Ill, p. 333. *Frogs must have storks." (Cl. II, 383). Luther was 
very fond of ^sop's fables, publishing some of them in German in 1530 
(Weimar E d . 1. 440 ff.) 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 51 

overlord, leave the fighting and striving to those who want 
it; for, as has been said, if God does not hold back the 
crowd, we cannot hold them; but if you would do what is 
right and have a secure conscience, let your harness and arms 
lie, and do not fight against your lord or tyrant ; rather suf- 
fer everything that can happen to you. The crowd which 
does the fighting, will find its judge. 

"But/* you say, "suppose that a king or lord has given an war*f 
oath to his subjects to rule according to prescribed articles, 1 
and does not keep them, and thus has the duty to give up the 
government. So it is said that the king ofj France must 
rule his kingdom according to the P a r 1 e m e n t s and jMtified 
the king of Denmark must also swear to certain articles, etc." 
I answer : It is fine and just that rulers govern according to 
laws and administer them and do not rule according to their 
self-will. Nevertheless, I add this, not only does a king 
promise to keep the law of his land or the articles of election, 
but God Himself commands him to be righteous, and he 
promises to do so. Well, then, if this king keeps neither God's 
law nor the law of the land, ought you to attack him, judge 
him, and take vengeance on him ? Who has committed that 
to you? Another ruler would have to come between you, 
who would hear both sides and condemn the guilty party; 
otherwise you will not escape the judgment of God, who Rom - 
says, "Vengeance is mine," and again, "Judge not" (Mat- Matt! 
thew vii). 7 -*i 

The case of the king of Denmark 3 is in point here. Lue- 
beck and the sea-towns joined with the Danes to drive him 
out. Therefore, I shall give my answer for the sake of 
those who may, perhaps, have a bad conscience in this mat- 
ter, on the chance that some of them may think better of 
their conduct and know themselves better. It is- true, indeed, 
that the king is unjust before God and the world, and the 
law is entirely on the side of the Danes and the Luebeckers. 

*The custom was not uncommon -under the feudal regime. It contains the 
germ of modern constitutional government. 

3 Christian II, mentioned above. He was driven out by a combination of his 
own barons, supported by the Hanseatic League. Cf. Cambridge Mod- 
ern History II, 228, 

52 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

That is one thing. But there is another thing, viz., that 
the Danes and Luebeckers have proceeded as judges and 
overlords of the king, and have punished and avenged the 
wrong, and thus assumed the right of judgment and ven- 
geance. Here come in questions for the conscience. If the 
case comes before God, He will not ask if the king was 
unjust and you just, for that has become clear; but He will 
ask, "You lords of Denmark and Luebeck, who commanded 
you to do these acts of punishment and vengeance? Did I 
command you, or did the emperor, or overlord? If so, prove 
it by letters patent." If they can do so, then they stand 
well; if not, God will judge thus, "You rebellious stealers 
from God, who lay hands upon my office and have taken it 
upon you to execute divine vengeance, you are guilty of 
laesae majestatis divinae, 1 that is, you have 
sinned against divine majesty and brought it down upon 
you." For to be wrong and to punish wrong are different 
things, jus et executio juris, justitia et 
administratio justitiae. To be right and 
wrong is common to every man; but to declare right and 
wrong is for Him who is Lord of right and wrong, and He 
is God alone, who commits this office to rulers, in His stead. 
Therefore, let no one assume to do this, unless he is sure 
that he has a command from God, or from God's servants, 
the rulers. 

If things were to be so that everyone who was in the right 
might himself punish everyone who did wrong, what would 
become of the world? The servant would smite the master, 
the maid the mistress, the children the parents, the pupils 
the teacher. That would be a fine order of things ? What 
need would there be, then, for judges and worldly rulers, 
appointed by God? Let the Danes and Luebeckers con- 
sider whether they would think it right if their servants, 
citizens and subjects resisted them whenever they were 
wronged. Why, then, do they not do to others what they 
wotdd that others should do to them, and exempt others 

1 "High treason against God." 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 53 

from a rule from which they themselves wish to be exempt, Matt 
as Christ teaches, in Matthew vii, and the natural law also 7:12 
teaches? To be sure, the Luebeckers and the other cities 
might help themselves by saying that they were not subjects 
of the king, but were dealing as enemy with enemy, or equal 
with equal. The poor Danes, however, were subjects and 
acted against their ruler without command from God, and 
the Luebeckers advised them and helped them. Thus they 
took upon themselves the burden of others* sins and mixed 
themselves up and entangled themselves and tied themselves 
up to this rebellious disobedience toward both God and man, 
not to mention the feet that they despised the emperor's 
commands also. 

I mention this case here by way of illustration, because we 
are discussing the doctrine that a person of lower rank shall 
not oppose a person of higher rank; for this expulsion of the 
king of Denmark is a notable history, and serves here to 
warn all others, to beware of this example and in the hope 
that the consciences of those who did it may be touched and 
that some of them may reform and leave their iniquity, 
before God comes and revenges Himself on His enemies and 
those who have robbed Him. Not that all of them will care 
about this ! The great multitude, as has been said, does not 
care about God's Word; it is an abandoned crowd and is 
being made ready for God's wrath and punishment. But I 
am satisfied that some will take it to heart and not involve 
themselves in the deeds of the Danes and Luebeckers, and 
if they have been involved, will get out of it and not be par- 
takers of other people's sin. For each of us has more than 
enough of his own sins to answer for. 

At this point I shall have to pause and listen to my critics, 
who cry, "Ei, that means, I think, flattering the princes? 
Are you creeping now to the cross and seeking pardon? 
Are you afraid? etc." I let these bumble-bees buzz and be 
on their way. If anyone can do better, let him. I have not 
undertaken here to preach to the princes and lords. I think, 
too, that this flattery of mine will get me scant grace and 
that they will not be very glad for this flattery, because it 

54 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

puts their whole class in jeopardy, as you have heard. Be- 
sides, I have said often enough elsewhere, and it is all too 
true, that the most of the princes and lords are godless 
tyrants and enemies of God, who persecute the Gospel and 
are my ungracious lords and sirs ; and I am not greatly con- 
cerned about that. But I teach that everyone should know 
how to conduct himself in this matter and how he ought to 
act toward his superiors, and should do what God has com- 
manded him, letting the lords look to themselves and stand 
on their own feet. God will not forget the tyrants and men 
of high rank; He is able to deal with them, and He has 
done so since the beginning of the world. 

Moreover, I will not have what I write here applied to the 
Princes peasants only, as though they were the only ones of lower 
May Not rank, and the nobles were not subjects also. Not so! What 
ar I say about inferiors in rank is intended to hit peasants, 

Superiors burghers, nobles, counts and princes ; for all these have over- 
lords and are the inferiors in rank of someone else. Just as 
a rebellious peasant has his head struck off, so a rebellious 
nobleman, count, or prince should have his head struck off. 
The one should be treated like the other and no one is 

The Emperor Maximilian, I believe, could have sung a 
pretty little song about rebellious princes and nobles who 
would have liked to make a disturbance and put their heads 
together. And the nobles! How often have they com- 
plained and made conspiracies and sought to defy the princes 
and make a disturbance? What a cry have the Franconian 
nobility alone raised about how little they care for the 
emperor or for their bishops. These knightlets must not be 
called disturbers or rebels, even though that were just what 
they were; the peasant must stand for it and keep still. But 
unless my mind deceives me, God has punished the rebellious 
lords and nobles by the rebellious peasants, one knave by 
another, since Maximilian had to endure them and could not 
punish them, though he had to restrain them as long as he 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 55 

lived. 1 I would wager something that if the peasants had not 
revolted, a rebellion would have arisen among the nobles 
against the princes and perhaps against the emperor; so 
critical was the position of Germany. 3 But now the peasants 
got into it and they must be the only ones who are black; 
the nobles and princes get off easy, wipe their mouths, are 
pretty fellows, and never did anything bad. But God is not 
deceived and has given them a warning, so that they may 
learn by this example that they, too, must obey their rulers. 
Let this be my flattery of princes and lords ! 

Here you say, "Are we, then, to put up with a ruler who 
would be such a scoundrel that he let knd and people go to 
ruin ? To speak in the fashion of the nobility Devil ! St. 
Vitus' Dance. Pestilence! St. Anthony! St. Quirinusl* I 
am a nobleman, and who shall allow my wife and children 
and body and property to be so shamefully ruined?" I 
reply: Listen! I am teaching you nothing; go on about 
your business! You are smart enough; I am not needed. 
The only trouble it costs me is that of seeing how you will 
finish this high-pitched little song of yours. 

To the others, who would like to keep their conscience 
clear, we have this to say. God has cast us into the world, 
under the power of the devil, so that we have here no para- 
dise, but are to expect all kinds of misfortune to body, wife, 
child, property, and honor every hour; and if ten misfor- 
tunes do not come in an hour, nay, if you can live for an 
hour, you ought to say, "Oh, how great is the kindness which 
my God shows me, that in this hour every misfortune has 
not come!" "How is that? Am I not to have a happy 
hour under the devil's rule?" That is what we teach our 
people. Of course, you may do something else; build your- 
self a paradise where the devil may not come so that you 
need not expect the rage of any tyrant; we will look on! 
Ah, we are only too happy ! We want things as they are ! 

M.e., The peasants. Maximilian d3ed 1519. 

a So gar stund Deudschland ynn einer Wage. "So evenly 
were the scales balanced in Germany ." 

* These words are all. expletives. "St Anthony's fire" is erysipelas; St. 
Quirinus' disease is not Identified, 

56 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

We do not recognize God's kindness, and do not believe in 
it, the kindness He shows in protecting us, when the devil 
is so wicked ! We want to be nothing but wicked knaves and 
yet receive nothing but good from God. 

That is enough on the first point, viz., that war and con- 
flict with superiors cannot be right; and although it often 
happens, and is in danger of happening every day, just as 
everything else that is bad and wrong also happens, if God 
decrees it and does not prevent it, nevertheless it does not 
turn out well in the end and does not remain unavenged, 
even though they who do it may have good fortune for a 

We will now take up the second point and discuss the ques- 
ti n whether equals may fight with equals. This I would 
Equals have understood as follows: It is not right to begin war 
with whenever any crazy lord takes it into his head. For at the 
very outset, I want to say, above all else, that he who starts 
Must war * s wrong, and it is just that he who first draws sword 
Not be shall be defeated, or even punished, in the end. This is what 
^v has usually happened in history; those who have started 
\ wars have lost them, and it has been seldom that they have 
t been beaten who have had to defend themselves. Worldly 
government has not been instituted by God to break peace 
and start war, but to maintain peace and repress the fighters. 
So Paul says, in Romans xiii, that the duty of the sword is 
to protect and punish, to protect the good in peace and 
punish the wicked with war; and God, who tolerates no 
wrong, so disposes things that the fighters must be fought 
down, and as the proverb says, "No one has ever been so 
bad, that someone is not worse." So, too, God has it sung 
* *8 sl of Him, in Psalm Ixvii, Dissipat gentes, quae 
bella volunt, "The Lord scattereth the peoples who 
have desire for war.!' 

Beware, therefore; He does not lie! And be advised, and 
hold far, far apart will and must, desire and necessity, lust 
for war and willingness to fight. Do not let yourself be 
tepnpted to think yotirself like the emperor of the Turks. 
Wait until need and must come without desire and will. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 57 

Then you will have enough to do and get enough of war, so 
that you can say, and your heart can boast, "I would gladly 
have had peace, if my neighbors had been willing." Thus 
you can defend yourself with a good conscience, for there 
stands God's word, "He scattereth those who have desire for 
war." Look at the real soldiers, those who have been in the 
game. They do not draw sword suddenly, do not brag, have 
no desire to smite; but when they are compelled, so that 
they have to do it, then beware of them ; they do not jest ; 
their sword is tight in the sheath, but if they have to draw, it 
does not return bloodless to the scabbard. On the other 
hand, the crazy fools who are the first to fight wars in their 
minds and make a fine start, devour the world with words, 
and are the first to draw their swords ; but they are also the 
first to run away and to put up their swords. The Romans, 
that mighty empire, won most of their victories because they 
had to fight; that is, everybody hung on them and wanted to 
win his spurs at their expense, so that they had to defend 
themselves; then they laid: about them vigorously enough. 
Hannibal, the prince out of Africa, hurt them so that he had 
almost destroyed them ; but what shall I say? He had begun ; 
he also had to stop. Courage (from God!) remained with 
the Romans, even though they lost, and where courage stays, 
deeds surely follow. For it is God who does the deeds, and 
He will have peace, and hates them that begin war and break 

I must mention here the example of Duke Frederick, Elec- 
tor of Saxony, for it would be too bad if that wise prince's 
sayings were to die with his body. 1 He had to endure many 
wicked plots on the part of his neighbors and of others, 
and had such cause for war that another crazy prince, who 
had desire for war, would have started ten wars ; and yet 
he kept his sword in the sheath, always gave the others good 
words, and acted as though he were very much afraid and 
almost ready to flee, and let the others boast and brag, though 
he held his ground before them. When asked why he let 

1 Frederick had died in 1525. 

58 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

them brag so, he replied, "I shall not start anything ; but if 
I must fight, you shall see that it will be I who say when it 
is to stop/' Thus he remained unbitten, though many dogs 
showed their teeth. He saw that they were fools and could 
be indulgent with them. If the king of France had not 
begun the war against the Emperor Charles, he would not 
have been so shamefully defeated and captured; 1 and now 
that the Venetians and Italians are setting themselves against 
the emperor, and starting trouble, 3 God grant that it may be 
they who must first stop it and let the word be true, "God 

PS. 68:i scattereth those who desire war," for even though the 
emperor is my enemy, I do not love wrong. 

All this God confirms with fine examples in the Scriptures. 
He had His people first offer peace to the kingdoms of the 
Amorites and Canaanites and would not have His people 
begin the fight with them, so that this precept of His might 
be confirmed. On the other hand, when these kingdoms 
began the war and forced God's people to defend themselves, 

Num. 21: they had to go to pieces. Self -protection is a proper cause 
225. o f war an( i therefore all laws agree that self-defense shall 
% unpunished, and he who kills another in self-defense is 
innocent in everyone's eyes. Again, when the people of 
Israel willed to smite the Canaanites without necessity, they 

Num. were beaten (Numbers xiv) ; and when Joseph and Azarias 
14:45 wanted to fight in order to win honor, they were beaten; 
5:ssff! an d Amaziah, king of Judah, also desired to war against the 

ii Kicking of Israel, but read, in II Kings xiv, what happened to 
H:8ff. him;. a i s o King Ahab began to fight against the Syrians at 

n 22 K ^ s Ramath, but lost and was destroyed (II Kings xxii) ; and 

judges " *k e men f Ephraim would have devoured Jephthah and lost 
12:6 42,000 men (Judges xii) ; and so on. You find that the 

ii K&gs i os ers were a i m ost always those who started the war. The 
good king Josiah had to be slain because he began to fight 
against the king of Egypt, and had to make good the saying, 

PS. 68:1 "The Lord scattereth those who desire to war." Therefore 

1 At the battle of Pavia, Feb. 25, 1525. 

3 The trouble that resulted in the sack of Rome by the imperial army in 
May, 1527. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 59 

my people in the Harz have a proverb, "I have verily heard 
that he who smites is smitten." Why so? Because God 
rules the world powerfully and leaves no wrong unpunished. 
He who does wrong has his punishment from God, as sure 
as^he lives, unless he repents and gives compensation to his 
neighbor. I believe that Muenzer and his peasants would 
have to admit this. 

Let this be, then, the first thing to be said on this point, 
War is not right, even between equal and equal, unless it is 
fought with such a good conscience that one can say, "My 
neighbor compels and forces me to fight, though I would 
rather avoid it." In that case, it can be called not only war, 
but due protection and self-defense. For a distinction must 
be made among wars; some are begun out of a desire and 
will to fight and before one is attacked, others are forced by 
necessity and compulsion after the attack has been made by 
the other party. The first kind can be called wars of desire,- 
the, second wars of necessity. The first kind are of the devil; 
God give him no good fortune ! The second kind are human 
misfortunes ; God help in them ! 

Be instructed, therefore, dear lords! Keep yourselves 
from war, unless you have to defend and protect yourselves 
and the office which you bear compels you to fight. Then let 
war come; hew in; be men, and test your armor; for then 
you are not fighting in your minds. The case 'Will be serious 
enough, and the teeth of the wrathful, boasting, proud iron- 
biters will get so blunt that they will scarcely be able to bite 
fresh butter. 

The reason is this. Every lord and prince is bound to 
protect his people and get peace for them. That is his office ; 
it is for that that he has the sword (Romans xiii). This T 4 
should be for him a matter of conscience and he should so 
depend upon it as to know that this work is right in the 
eyes of God and is commanded by Him. I am not now teach- 
ing what Christians are to do ; for your rule does not con- 
cern us Christians, but we are rendering you a service and 
telling you what you are to do before God, in your office of 
ruling. A Christian is a person to himself ; he believes for 

60 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

himself and for no one else. But a lord and prince is not a 
person to himself, but to others ; he has to serve them, that 
is, protect and defend them. To be sure it were good if he 
were a Christian besides and believed in God ; then he would 
be happy ; but it is not princely to be a Christian and there- 
fore few princes can be Christians, as they say, "A prince is 
a rare bird in heaven." 1 Now even if they are not Chris- 
tians, nevertheless they ought to do what is right and good 
according to God's outward ordinance; He will have this 
of them. 

But if a lord or prince does not perceive this duty and 
commandment, and lets himself think that he is prince, not 
for his subjects' sake, but because of his beautiful, yellow 
hair, as though God had made him a prince so that he may 
rejoice in his power and wealth and honor, take pleasure in 
these things and rely on them; if that be the case, he be- 
longs among the heathen, nay, he is a fool. That kind of 
prince would start a war over an empty nut and think of 
nothing except satisfying his self-will. God keeps that kind 
of prince in check by the fact that others, too, have fists and 
that there are people the other side of the mountain, too ; thus 
one sword keeps the other in the scabbard. But a prince 
who has his reason does not consider himself; he is satis- 
fied if his subjects are obedient. Though his enemies and 
neighbors boast and brag and let fly many bad words, he 
thinks, "Fools always gabble more than wise men: many 
words go into the bag and silence is an answer to much." 
Therefore he does not concern himself much about them 
until he sees that his subjects are attacked or finds the sword 
actually drawn; then he defends himself as well as he can, 
ought, and must. Otherwise, one who is such a coward ias 
to take up every word and seek the reason for it, is trying to 
catch the wind in his cloak; how much peace or profit he 
will have from that, let him confess himself ; then you will 
find out. 

That is the first thing on this point; it is equally necessary 

*Cf. VoL II, p. 163; Vol. Ill, p. 184; cf. Vol. IV, p. 231. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 61 

to note the second. Even though you are sure and certain Moat be 
that you are not beginning it, but are forced into war, nev- 
ertheless you must fear God and have Him before your eyes, 
and not march out, saying, "Yes, I am forced into it and ' 
have good cause for war." If you depend on that and 
plunge in headlong, that, too, is not the thing to do. It is 
true that you have good reason to fight and defend yourself, 
but that does not give you God's guarantee that you will 
win. Indeed this very confidence may well be a reason why 
you must lose, even though you had just cause for war, since 
God cannot suffer confidence and pride except in one who 
humbles himself before Him and fears Him. It pleases Him 
when one fears neither man nor devil and is bold and con- 
fident, brave and firm against both, if they began the war and 
are in the wrong; but that this should win the victory, as 
though it were our deeds or power that did it, there is nothing 
in that! He will be feared and hear us singing, from, our 
hearts, a song like this,' "Dear Lord, Thou seest that I have 
to go to war, though I would be glad not to ; I da not build, 
however, on the justice of my cause, but on Thy grace and 
mercy ; for I know that if I were to rely on my just cause 
and be confident because of it, Thou shouldest rightly let 
me fall as one whose fall was just, because I relied upon my 
right and not upon Thy sheer grace and kindness/' 

Hear what the heathen say about this, the Greeks and 
Romans, who knew nothing of God and the fear of God. 
They held that it was they themselves who made war and 
won victories ; but by long experience, in which a great and 
well-armed people was often beaten by a small number of 
ill-armed folk, they had to learn and freely admit that noth- 
ing in war is more dangerous than to be secure and confident, 
and thus they reached the conclusion that one should never 
despise the enemy, no matter how small he may be ; also that 
one should surrender no advantage, no matter how small it 
be ; also that one should neglect no precaution, vigilance, or 
attention, no matter how small it be; everything must be 
measured out as though one were weighing gold. Foolish, 
confident, heedless people serve no purpose in war, except to 

62 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

do harm. The word, Non putassem , "I did not 
think of it," they held to be the most shameful word that a 
soldier could speak, for it is a sign of a secure, confident, 
careless man, who in one moment, by one step, with one 
word, can do more damage than ten of him can repair, and 
then will say, "Indeed I did not think of it." How terribly 
Prince Hannibal smote the Romans while they were con- 
fident and secure against him; and cases of the kind are 
innumerable in history, and are daily before our eyes. 

The heathen learned this by experience and taught it, but 
did not know how to give any reason or cause for it, except 
to blame it on Fortune, of which they had to be afraid. But 
the reason and cause is, as I have said, that God would testify 
by all such histories that He will be feared, and even in such 
things will not endure confidence, despite, temerity, or secur- 
ity, until we learn to take from His hands all that we can 
have, as a gift of pure grace and mercy. Therefore, it is a 
strange thing that a soldier who has a good cause should be 
at the same time confident and discouraged. How can he 
fight, if he is discouraged But if he fights undiscouraged, 
there is the more danger. This, then, is what he should do. 
Before God, he should be discouraged, fearful, and humble, 
and commit his cause to Him, that He may dispose things, 
not according to our law, but according to His kindness and 
grace ; thus he wins God to his side with an humble, fearful 
heart. Toward men, he should be bold, free, confident, be- 
cause they are in the wrong, and smite them with a confident 
and untroubled spirit. Why should we not do for our God 
what the Romans, the greatest fighters on earth, did for their 
false god, Fortune, whom they feared ? If they did not do 
this, they fought a perilous battle, or were badly beaten. 

Therefore, our conclusion on this point is that war against 
equals should be a thing that is made necessary and should 
be fought in the fear of God. It is made necessary when an 
enemy or neighbor makes the attack and starts the war, and 
will not help when one offers to settle the case by legal pro- 
cedure, discussion, or agreement; or when one passes over 
and puts up with all sorts of evil words and tricks, but will 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 63 

be content with nothing but his own way. 1 For I am assum- 
ing throughout that I am preaching to those who want to do 
right before God; those who will neither offer nor consent 
to do what is right do not concern me. To fear God is not 
to rely on the justice of one's cause, but to be careful, dili- 
gent, and captious, even in the very smallest details, in so 
small a thing as a whistle. With all this, however, God's 
hands are not bound, so that He cannot bid us make war 
against those who have given us no occasion. Thus He bade 
the children of Israel go to war against the Canaanites. In 
such a case there is necessity enough, viz., the command of 
God ; though even such a war should not be fought without 
fear and care, as God shows, in Joshua iii, when the children Josh * 
of Israel marched confidently against the men of Ai, and 
were beaten. A necessity of the same kind arises, if subjects 
fight at the command of their rulers ; for God commands that 
men are to obey their ruler, and his command is a necessity, 
though this, too, must be done with fear and humility. Of 
this we shall say more hereafter. 

The third question is whether superiors have the right to 
go to war with inferiors. We have, indeed, heard above that 
subjects are to be obedient and are even to suffer wrong 1 from 
their tyrants, so that, if things go well, the rulers have noth- 
ing to do with their subjects except cultivate right, righteous- 
ness and judgment ; but if they rise and rebel, as the peasants 
did lately, then it is right and proper to fight against them. 
That, too, is what a prince should do to his nobles, an 
emperor to his princes, if they are rebellious and start a war. 
Only it must be done in the fear of God, and too much re- 
liance must not be placed on one's right, so that God may 
not determine that the lords be punished by their subjects, 
even though the subjects are in the wrong. This has often 
happened, as we have heard above. For to be right and to 
do right do not always go together; nay, they never go to- 
gether except by the gift of God. Therefore, although it is 
right that subjects be quiet and suffer everything, and not 

*Wil schlecta mit dem kopffe hyndurch. 

Vol, V-5. 

64 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

revolt, nevertheless, it is not for men to decide whether they 
shall do so; for God has appointed inferiors to care for 
themselves alone and has taken the sword from them and 
has put them in a prison; and if they make a disturbance 
about it, and gather others to them, and break loose, and 
take the sword, then before God they are worthy of judg- 
ment and death. 

Superiors, on the other hand, are appointed to be a com- 
mon person, 1 and do not exist for themselves alone. They 
are to have the attachment of their subjects and are to bear 
the sword. For compared to the emperor, his overlord, a 
prince is not a prince, but an individual in the obedience of 
the emperor, as all others are, each for himself ; but com- 
pared to his subjects, he is as many persons as he has people 
under him and attached to him. So the emperor, too, when 
compared with God, is not emperor, but an individual per- 
son like all others; but compared with his subjects, he is as 
many times emperor as he has people tinder him. The same 
thing is to be said of all other rulers. When compared to 
their overlord, they are not rulers at all and are stripped of 
all rulership. When compared to one another, they are all 
adorned with rulership. Thus, in the end, all rulership comes 
to God, whose alone it is ; for He is emperor, prince, count, 
noble, judge, and everything, and He divides these out to 
His subjects as He wills, and brings them back again to 
Himself. Now no individual person ought to set himself 
against the community or attach the community to him, for 
in so doing he is chopping above his head, and the chips will 
surely fall in his eyes. From this you see how they resist 
Rom. the ordinance of God who resist their rulers, as St. Paul 
I clr 2 teac -' :les * n R man s xiii. Thus he says also, in I Corinthians 
1S: 24 xv, that God will abolish all rulership, when He Himself 
shall reign and return all things to Himself. 

So much on these three points; now come the questions. 
No king can go to war alone, any more than he can adminis- 
ter the law courts alone ; he must have people who serve him 

* E i n e getneiae person, i.e.,. the community assumes personality in 
the ruler; in Hm the community is one person. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 65 

in war, just as he must have counsellors, judges, lawyers, 
prison-keepers, executioners, and whatever else belongs to 
justice. Therefore, the question arises whether a man ought i. 
to take wages, D ienstgeld or Manngeld,as they a 
call it, and hire himself out, binding himself to serve the Pay? 
prince as the times may demand, according to the present 
custom. In answer to this question, we make a distinction 
among these soldiers. 

In the first place, there are the subjects, who, even without 
such an arrangement, are obligated to aid their overlords 
with body and goods and obey their summons. For the goods 
that counts, lords and nobles hold, were parcelled out in 
ancient times by the Romans and the Roman emperors and 
given in fief on the condition that those who possess them 
should always be armed and ready, the one with so many 
horses and men, the other with so many, according to the size 
of the holding. The holdings were the wages with which 
they were hired. Therefore they are called fiefs and these 
incumbrances still rest upon them. The emperor permits 
these holdings to be inherited and this is right and fine in the 
Roman Empire; but the Turk, it is said, allows none of 
them to be inherited and tolerates no hereditary principality, 
county, or knights' fee, or fief, but appoints to them, and 
gives them how, when, and to whom he will. Therefore he 
has such immeasurable wealth and is lord in the land, or 
rather a tyrant. 

The nobles, therefore, may not think that they have their 
property for nothing, as though they had found it, or won it 
in gambling. The encumbrance on it and the feudal dues 
show whence and why they have it, namely, as a loan from 
the emperor or the prince, so that they ought not use it for 
display and riotous conduct, but be armed and prepared for 
war for the protection of the land and the maintenance of 
peace. Now if they complain that they must keep horses 
and serve the princes and lords when others have quiet and 
peace, I reply: Dear sir, let me tell you something. You have 
your pay and your fief,, and are appointed to this office and 
well paid for it. But have not others, too, work enough to 

66 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

do on their little properties ? Or are you the only ones who 
have work to do ? And your office 1 is seldom called for, but 
others must do their duty every day. If you are not willing 
to do this or think it burdensome or unjust, then let your 
fief go; others will be found who will be glad to accept it 
and do in return what it requires. 

Therefore, the wise have included all the work of men in 
two divisions, agriculturam and militiam, that 
is, agriculture and warfare, and this is the natural division. 
Agriculture is to feed and warfare to defend. Those who 
are in the defending office are to get their income and their 
food from those who are in the feeding office, in order that 
they can defend; those who are in the feeding office are to 
have protection from those who are in the defending office, 
in order that they can feed. The emperor or prince in the 
land is to look to both offices and see to it that those in the 
defending office are armed and mounted, and those in the 
feeding office are honestly trying to increase the food; but 
useless people, who neither feed nor defend, but only con- 
sume, loaf, and live in idleness, he should not tolerate, but 
drive out of the land, as the bees do, who sting the drones 
to death, because they do not work and only eat up the 
Ecd. honey of the other bees. Thus Solomon, in his Ecclesiastes, 

5:8 calls the kings builders, who build the land, for that should 
be their office. But God preserve us Germans ! We are not 
getting wise and doing this the right way, but are continuing 
for a while to be consumers, and letting those be feeders and 
defenders who have the desire for it or cannot get around it. 
That this first class have a right to their pay and their 
fiefs, and do right when they help their lord make war and 
serve him in so doing, as is their duty, this St. John the 

3:14 Baptist has confirmed, in Luke ii. When the soldiers asked 
him what they were to do, he answered, "Be content with 
your wages." For if it were wrong for them to take wages, 
or if their occupation were against God, he could not have 
let it continue, permitted it, and confirmed it, but, as a godly, 

*i.e., Fighting. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 67 

Christian teacher, he would have had to rebuke it and keep 
them from it. This is the answer to those who, because of 
tenderness of conscience, though this is now rare among 
these people, profess that it is perilous to take up this 
occupation for the sake of temporal goods, since it is noth- 
ing else than bloodshed, murder, and the infliction of all 
suffering upon one's neighbor, as times of war show. These 
men should inform their consciences that they do not do this 
from choice, desire, or ill-will, but that the word is God's 
and that it is their duty to their prince and their God. There- 
fore, since it is a right office, ordained of God, it is fitting 
that there should be pay and reward for it, as Christ says, 
in Matthew x, "A laborer is worthy of his hire." 

Of course, it is true that if a man serves as a soldier, with 
a heart that neither seeks nor thinks of anything but acquir- 
ing wealth, and if temporal wealth is his only reason for 
doing it, he is not happy when there is peace and is sorry 
when there is no war. Such a man goes off the track and 
is the devil's own, even though he fights out of obedience to 
his lord and on his summons ; for he makes a bad work out 
of a work that is, in itself, good ; with the addition that he 
does not pay much attention to the fact that he serves from 
obedience and duty, but only seeks his own profit. Therefore 
he has not a good conscience, which can say, "Well, for my 
part, I would like to stay at home, but because my lord calls 
me and asks me, I come in God's name and know that I am 
serving God in so doing, and I will earn or take the pay 
that is given me for it." For a soldier ought to have the 
knowledge and confidence that he is doing his duty, and 
must do it, and thus be certain that he is serving God, and 
can say, "It is not I that smite, stab, slay, but God and my 
prince, whose servants my hand and my body now are." For 
that is the meaning of the watchwords and battle-cries, 
"Emperor!" "France!" "Lueneburg!" "Brunswick!" So 7:20 
the Jews cried against the Midianites, "The sword of God 
and Gideon !" 

An avaricious fellow spoils all other good works, too ; for 

68 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

Matt. example, a man who preaches for temporal wealth is lost, 
though Christ says that a preacher shall live from the Gospel. 
To do things for temporal wealth is not bad, for income, 
wages, and pay are temporal wealth. If that were so, no 
one could work or do anything for his support, because 
everything is done for temporal wealth. But to be greedy of 
temporal wealth and make a Mammon of it is wrong always 
In all positions, in all occupations and works. Leave out 
greed and other evil thoughts, and to fight in war is not 
sin; take your wages for it, and whatever is given you. 
Therefore, I said above that the work is, in itself, right and 
godly, but it becomes wrong if the person is wrong or uses 
it wrongly. 
A second question: "Suppose my lord were wrong in 

Fight going to war." I reply: If you know for sure that he is 

toa wrong, then you should fear God rather than men (Acts 
i y )> an d n ot %ht or serve, for you cannot have a good con- 
g science before God. "Nay," you say, "my lord compels me, 
5-29 takes my fief, does not give me my money, pay, and wages ; 
and besides, I am despised and put to shame as a coward, 
nay, as a faith-breaker in the eyes of the world, as one who 
has deserted his lord in need." I answer : You must take 
that risk and, with God's help, let go what goes; He can 
restore it to you a hundredfold, as He promises in the Gos- 

Matt P^> "He that leaveth house, home, wife, goods, for my sake, 
19:29 shall get it back a hundredfold." In all other works, too, we 
must expect the danger that the rulers will compel us to do 
wrong; but since God will have us leave even father and 
mother for His sake, we must certainly leave lords for His 
sake. But if you do not know, or cannot find out whether 
youMord is wrong, you ought not to weaken an uncertain 
obedience with an uncertainty of right, but should think the 

1 C il'-7 best f your lord ' as is the wa y of love > for "Love believeth 
all things; thinketh no evil" (I Corinthians xiii). Thus you 
are secure, and walk well before God. If they put you to 
shame, or call you faithless, it is better that God call you 
faithful and honorable than that the world call you faithful 
and honorable. What good would it do you, if the world 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 69 

held you for a Solomon or a Moses, and before God you 
were counted as bad as Saul or Ahab? 

The third question: "Can a soldier obligate himself to 
serve more than one lord and take wages or service-money 
from each?" Answer: I said above that greed is wrong, 
whether in a good or a bad occupation. Agriculture is 
certainly one of the best occupations, and yet a greedy 
farmer is wrong and is condemned before God. So in this ^^o^e 
case, to take wages is just and right, and to serve for wages Prince? 
is also right, even though the wages were scarcely a 
gulden a year. Again, to take wages and serve for them 
is, in itself, right, no matter whether they come from one 
or two or three or ever so many lords, so long as your heredi- 
tary lord or prince is not deprived of his dues, and your ser- 
vice to others is rendered with his will and consent. Just as 
a good artisan may sell his skill to anyone who will have it, 
and thus serve the one he sells to, so long as this is not 
against his ruler and his community; so a soldier has his 
skill in fighting from God and can serve with it whoever 
desires his service, exactly as though it were an art or trade, 
and he can take pay for it as though for his work. For 
this, too, is a calling that springs from the law of love; if 
any one needs me and calls for me, I am at his service, and 
take for this whatever is due, or what is given me; for thus 
says St. Paul, in I Corinthians ix, "No one serveth at his z Cotv 
own charges." So he approves this right. Since, then, a 9 - 7 
prince needs and requires another's subject for fighting, the 
subject, with his own prince's consent and knowledge, may 
serve and take pay for it. 

"But suppose that one of the princes or lords were to make 
war against the other, and I were obligated to both, but 
preferred to serve the one who was in the wrong, because 
he has showed me more grace or kindness than the one who 
was in the right and from whom I get less, what then ?" 
Here is the quick, short answer : Right, that is, that which 
pleases God, should be above wealth, body, honor and friends, 
grace, and enjoyment, and in this case there is no respecting 
of persons, but only of God. In this case, too, a man must 

70 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

put up with it if he is considered ungrateful or is despised, 
for here there is an honest excuse, namely God and right, 
which will not allow him to serve the one he likes best and 
leave the one he likes least. Although the old Adam does 
not listen willingly to this, nevertheless, it must be so if 
right is to be kept; for there is no fighting against God, and 
he who fights against right fights against God, who gives, 
orders, and maintains all right. 
4. o*iit THe fourth question: "What is to be said about the man 
w j lo g 0eg to war not on jy f or t fe sa ^ e O f we alth, but also 

for the sake of temporal honor, in order that he may become 
a big man and be looked up to?" Answer: Greed of money 
and greed of honor both are greed, the one as wrong as the 
other, and he who fights in this vice gets hell for himself. 
We are to leave the honor and give the honor to God alone 
and be satisfied with the wages and rations. It is, therefore, 
a heathen and not a Christian custom to exhort soldiers be- 
fore the battle like this, "Dear comrades, dear soldiers, be 
brave and confident ; God willing, we shall get honor today 
and become rich." On the contrary, they should be exhorted 
like this, "Dear comrades, we are gathered here in service, 
duty, and obedience to our prince, and, according to God's 
will and ordinance, we are bound to stand by him with body 
and goods. Although, before God, we are poor sinners, as 
are our enemies, nevertheless, since we know that our prince 
is in the right in this case, or at least do not know otherwise, 
we are therefore sure and certain that in serving and obeying 
him, we are serving God. Let everyone, then, be brave and 
courageous and let no one think otherwise than that his fist is 
God's fist, his pike God's pike, and cry with heart and voice, 
'God and the Emperor I 9 If God gives us victory, the honor 
and praise shall be His, not ours, for He does it through us 
poor sinners. But the booty and the pay we will take as 
presents and gifts of His goodness and grace to us, who 
are unworthy, and thank Him for them from our hearts. 
Now God grant the victory ! Forward, with joy !" 

For without doubt, if one seeks the honor of God and 
lets Him have it as is just and right, and as it ought to be ! 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 71 

then more honor will come than anyone could seek, because 
Ggd has promised in I Kings ii, "He that honoreth me, him I Sam. 
will I honor again; but he that dishonoreth me shall be dis- 2:3 
honored in return." Since He cannot fail to keep this 
promise of His, He must honor those who honor Him, and it 
is one of the greatest sins when one seeks one's own honor, 
for this is nothing else than crimen laesae m a - 
jestatis divinae "robbery of the divine majesty." 1 
Let others, therefore, boast and seek honor ; do you be obe- 
dient and quiet, and your honor will find you. Many a battle 
is lost that might have been won if honor alone could have 
done it. For these honor-greedy warriors do not believe 
that God is in the war and gives the victory ; therefore they 
do not fear God and are not joyful, but foolhardy and mad; 
and at last they are beaten. 

But I think those the best "comrades" who encourage 
themselves, and have themselves encouraged, before the 
battle with the thought of the women whom they love, and 
have this said to them, "Ha, now, let everyone think of her 
whom he loves best." I say this, if I had not heard that 
this was done from two credible men, who had had experi- 
ence in these matters, I would never have believed that in a 
business of this kind, where the danger of death stares men 
in the face, the human heart could so forget itself and be so 
light. No one does this, to be sure, when he fights alone 
with death, but here in the crowd the one stirs up the other, 
and no one gives a thought to what affects him, because it 
affects many. But to a Christian heart it is terrible to think 
and hear that in the hour when one has God's judgment and 
the peril of death before him, he tickles himself and encour- 
ages himself with fleshly love; for those who are killed or 
die thus certainly send their souls straight to hell without 

"Nay," they say, "if I were to think of hell, I could never 
go to war at all." That is still worse, to put God and His 
judgment wilfully out of mind and neither know nor think 
nor hear anything about them. Therefore a great part of 

1 We might render it, "high treason against God." Cf. above, p. 52, 

72 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

the soldiers belong to the devil, and some of them are so full 
of the devil that they know no better way to prove their joy 
than by speaking contemptuously of God and His judgment, 
as though they were the real iron-eaters when they dare to 
swear shamefully by the Passion, and curse, and defy God in 
heaven. It is a lost crowd; it is chaff, and as in other 
classes, there is much chaff and little wheat. 

It follows that the lands knechts, 1 who wander 
about the land seeking war, though they might work and 
ply a trade till they were called for, and who thus waste 
their time, from laziness or from roughness and wildness of 
spirit cannot be on good terms with God. They can show - 
God no reason and no good conscience for their gadding 
about, but have only a foolhardy desire or eagerness for war 
or for the leading of a free, wild life. In the nature of them, 
a part of these fellows must finally become knaves and rob- 
bers. But if they were to betake themselves to labor, or a 
trade, and were to earn their bread, as God has commanded 
all men to do, until their prince summoned them for him- 
self, or; permitted and asked them to go to another, then 
they could stand up with a good conscience as men who 
knew that they were serving the pleasure of their overlord 
by it ; and this fine conscience they could not have otherwise. 
For it ought to be to all the world a comfort and joy, nay, a 
mighty reason for loving and honoring rulers, that Almighty 
God shows us this great grace and appoints rulers for us as 
an outward sign of His will, so that we are sure we are 
pleasing His divine will and doing right, whenever we do 
the will and pleasure of the ruler. For He has fastened and 

- ! )0tind His wil1 to them > when He sa y s > " Give to C^sar what 
m. " * s Caesar's," and in Romans xiii, "Let everyone be subject 
13:1 to the rulers." 

Finally, soldiers have many superstitions in battle. One 
commends himself to St. George, another to St. Christopher; 
soldiers one to this saint, another to that. Some can conjure iron anH 
bullets; some can bless horse and rider; some carry St. 
John* Gospel, or some other object on which they rely. All 

*Tlie German mercenary soldiers, who were found in most of the armies 
i Jc/orope. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 73 

these are in perilous state, for they do not believe in God, 
but rather sin through unbelief and false belief in God, and 
if they were to die, they must needs be lost. This is what 
they ought to do. When the battle begins and the exhorta- 
tion, of which I spoke above, has been given, they should 
commend themselves simply to God's grace and adopt a 
Christian attitude. For the exhortation above is only a form 
for doing the external work of war with a good conscience ; 
but since no good work saves men, everyone should say 
this exhortation, too, in his heart or with his lips, "Heav- 
enly Father, here I am, according to Thy divine will, in the 
external work and service of my lord, which I owe first to 
Thee and then to my lord for Thy sake. I thank Thy grace 
and mercy that Thou hast put me into a work of which I am 
sure that it is not sin, but right and pleasing obedience to Thy 
will. But because I know and have learned from Thy gra- 
cious Word that none of our good works can help us and 
no one is saved as a soldier but only as a Christian, there- 
fore, I will rely not at all on this obedience and work of 
mine, but put myself freely at the service of Thy will and 
believe from the heart that only the innocent blood of Thy 
dear Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, redeems and saves me, and 
this He has shed for me in obedience to Thy holy will. On 
this I stay ; on this I live and die ; on this I fight and do all. 
Dear Lord God the Father, preserve and strengthen this 
faith in me by Thy Spirit. Amen." If then you want to 
say the Creed and the Lord's Prayer, you may do- so, and 
let that be enough. Thus commit body and soul to His 
hands, and draw sword, and smite in God's name. 

If there were many such soldiers in an arnay, who, think 
you, would do anything to them? They would devour the 
world without lifting sword. Nay, if there were nine or ten 
such in a company, or only three or four, who could say 
these things with a true heart, I would prefer them to all 
the guns, pikes, horses and armor, and I would let the Turk 
come on, with all his power; for Christian faith is not a 
jest, nor is it a little thing, but as Christ says in the Gospel, M 
"It can do all things." But, my dear sir, where are those 9^23 

74 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved 

who believe thus, and can do such things? Nevertheless, 
although the crowd does not do this, we must teach it and 
sa. know it for the sake of those who will do it, however few 
ss-.n they raay be. For God's Word does not go out in vain, 
says Isaiah, lo, it brings some to God. The others who de- 
spise this wholesome teaching, given for their salvation, have 
their Judge to whom they must make answer. We are 
excused, and have done our part. 

Here I shall let this rest for this time. I wanted to say 
something about war against the Turk, because he had come 
so dose to us, and some reproached me as though I had ad- 
vised against war with the Turk. 1 I have long known that 
at last I would have to become a Turk, and it does not help 
me that I have written so plainly about this and have said, 
especially in the book On Temporal Government, 
that equal may well go to war with equal. But since the 
Turk is back home again and our Germans are no longer 
asking about this, it is not yet time to write about it. a 

This instruction, my dear Assa, I should have completed 
long ago; but it has been delayed so long that meanwhile, 
by God's grace, you and I have become godfathers. 8 And 
yet I hope that the delay has not been fruitless and that the 
cause has been furthered by it. I commend you to God. 

1 Among the statements condemned in the bull of excommunication (1520) 
was one to this effect 

= The time came in 1528. See On War Against the Turk, this 
volume, p. 81 ff. 

1 See Introduction, above, p. 31. 




On August 5, 1528, Luther wrote to Nicholas Haustnann, thanking 
him for a Brattle that Hausmann had sent to little Hans. In that 
letter he said, "I had determined to write something about the Turkish 
war, but I hope it will be needless. "* In October of the same year 
he went 2 to work at it; the Letter of Dedication bears the date, Octo- 
ber 9th. 2 The publication was long delayed, however, as the printer 
lost the whole first part of the work and it had to be rewritten. It 
finally came from the press, April 23, 1529, 

Its publication was timely. The Second Diet of Spires was then 
in session and one of the most important questions ttat it had to dis- 
cuss was that of ways and means for resisting the Turkish invasion 
that was then threatening and that ultimately carried a Turkish army 
up to the walls of Vienna in September, 1529. One of the most seri- 
ous anxieties of Charles V and his brother, Ferdinand of Austria,, 
was caused by the possibility that the Lutheran powers in Germany 
might demand toleration for Lutheranism as the price for their mili- 
tary support against the Turks. 

From the 'beginning of his public career, Luther had spoken of the 
Turks as the rod of Gcd's^ anger. He( looked upon their invasions 
of Central Europe as a divine visitation upon th,e sins of rulers and 
people. In the Resolutiones of the Ninety-five Theses* he 
had declared that the leaders o<f the Church. wanted to go to war, not 
against iniquity and sin, but against the rod of punishment that God 
was sending. Im so doing they were fighting against God. This 
statement was one of those condemned, in 1520, in the bull E x s u r g e 
domine. Luther explained and defended it, in 1521,* and uses it 
here as the point of departure for his discussion.* 

In this tract Luther comes out clearly in favor of national defense 
against Turkish aggression. A few months later, after the raising 
of the siege of Vienna, he expressed himself even more strongly in 
the Heerpredigt wider den Ttirken. 8 

The fact is that Luther had never really objected to a war of 
defense against the Turks. But he had objected to such a war in 
alliance with and under the direction of the papacy. It must not be 
a crusade. Warfare was not in any sense the business or the duty 
of the Church, but of the State. Defense against the Turks devolves 
upon the emperor, and upon no one else, not because he is a Chris- 
tian or " defender of the faith, " but purely and simply because he is 
emperor. On the other hand such a war can be undertaken with good 
prospects of success, only in case it is undertaken humbly and in the 

VI, 314; SMITH & JACOBS, Luther's Correspondence., 

' * See* below, 

Weimar Ed., I. 535. 

*Cf. in tfcis edition, Vol. Ill, p, 11 ff. 

See below. 

Weimar Ed. XXX a , 160 &. 


78 Introduction 

fear of God. The whole tract should be read in connection with that 
on Soldiers, 1 and that On Temporal Government, 3 and 
the Explanation of the Eighty-second Psalm. 8 
The text is found in Weimar Ed., XXX 3 , 107 ff.; Erlangen 
Ed, XXXI, 31 ff.; St. Louis Ed. XX, 2108 ff.; Berlin Ed., 
VII, 438 ff. The translation is from the Weimar text. 



1 Above, pp. 32 ff. 
* Vol. Ill, pp. 228 ff. 
Yd. IV, pp, 287 ff. 

To the 

Serene, highborn Prince and Lord, 
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse. 
Count of Katzenellenbogen, 
Ziegenhain and Nidda, 

My gracious lord. 

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour. 
Serene, highborn Prince, gracious Lord. 

Certain persons have been begging me for the past five Letter of 
years to write about war against the Turks, and encourage D di - 
our people and stir them up to it, and now that the Turk is cati<m 
actually approaching, my friends are compelling me to do 
this duty, especially since there are some stupid preachers 
among us Germans (as I am sorry to hear) who are making 
the^ people believe that we ought not and must not fight 
against the Turks. Some are even so crazy as to say that it 
is not proper for Christians to bear the temporal sword or to 
be rulers; also because our German people are such a wild 
and uncivilized folk that there are some who want the Turk 
to come and rule. All the blame for this wicked error among 
the people is laid on Luther and must be called "the fruit 
of my Gospel," just as I must bear the blame for the rebel- 
lion, 1 and for everything bad that happens anywhere in the 
world. My accusers know better, but God and His Word 
to the contrary, they pretend not to know better, and seek 
occasion to speak evil of the Holy Ghost and of the truth 
that is openly confessed, so that they may earn the reward of 
hell and never receive repentance or the forgiveness of their 

Therefore it is necessary for me to write of these things 
for my own sake and the Gospel's sake and to enter our 
defense; not because of the blasphemers, however. They are 
not good enough to make it worth while to say a single word 

*The Peasants' Revolt of 1525. 
Vol. V--6. (79) 

80 On War Against the Turk 

of defense to them, for to them the Gospel must always be 
a stench and a savor of death un/to death, as they have de- 
served by their willful blasphemy. But I must write in order 
that innocent consciences may not any longer be deceived by 
these slandermongers, and made suspicious of me or my 
doctrine, and may not be deceived into believing that we 
must not fight against the Turks. I have thought best to pub- 
lish this little book under the name of your Grace, who are a 
famous and mighty prince, so that it may be the better re- 
ceived and the more diligently read. Thus, if it came to a 
discussion of a campaign against the Turks, the princes and 
lords would readily recall it. I commend your Grace to our 
merciful God's grace and favor, that He may keep your 
Grace against all error and against the craft of the devil, 
and illumine and strengthen your Grace for a blessed reign. 
Your Grace's devoted 




Pope Leo the Tenth, in the bull in which he put me under 
the ban, condemned, among other statements, the following 
one. I had said that "to fight against the Turk is the same views 
thing as resisting God, who visits our sin upon us with this 
rod." 1 From this article they may get it, who say that I 
prevent and dissuade from war against the Turk. I still 
confess freely that this article is mine and that I put it forth 
and defended it at the time ; and if things in the world were 
in the same state now that they were in then, I would still 
have to put it forth and defend it. But it is not fair to for- 
get how things then stood in the world, and what my grounds 
and reasons were, and still keep my words and apply them 
to another situation where those grounds and reasons do 
not exist. With this kind of art, who could not make the 
Gospel a pack of lies or pretend that it contradicted itself ? 

This was the state of things at that time, no one had 
taught, no one had heard, and no one knew anything about 
temporal government, whence it came, what its office and 
work was, or how it ought to serve God. The most learned 
men (I shall not name them) held temporal government for 
a heathen, human, ungodly thing, as though it were perilous 
to salvation to be in the ranks of the rulers. Therefore, the 
priests and monks had so driven kings and princes into the 
corner, as to persuade them that, to serve God, they must 
undertake other works, such as hearing mass, saying prayers, 
endowing masses, etc. In a word, princes and lords who 
wanted to be pious men held their rank and office as of no 
value and did not consider it a service of God. They became 
really priests and monks, except that they did not wear ton- 
sures and cowls. If they would serve God, they must go to 

*See Introduction above, and Vol. in, p. 7 t f 11 ff. 

82 On War Against the Turk 

church. All the lords then living would have to testify to 
this, for they knew it by experience. My gracious lord, Duke 
Frederick, of blessed memory, was so glad when I first 
wrote On Temporal Government, 1 that he had 
the little book copied out and put in a special binding, and 
was happy that he could see what his position was before 

Thus the pope and the clergy were, at that time, all in all, 
4:6 over all, and through all, like God in the world, and the 
temporal rulers were in darkness, oppressed and unknown. 
But the pope and his crowd wanted to be Christians, too, 
and therefore pretended to make war on the Turk. Over 
those two points the discussion arose, for I was then working 
on doctrine that concerned Christians and the conscience, and 
had as yet written nothing about the temporal rulers. The 
papists, therefore, called me a flatterer of the princes, because 
I was dealing only with the spiritual class/ and not with 
the temporal ; just as they call me seditious, now that I have 
written in such glorification of temporal government as no 
teacher has done since the days of the apostles, except, per- 
haps, St. Augustine. 3 Of this I can boast with a good con- 
science and the testimony of the world will support me. 

Among the points of Christian doctrine,- 1 discussed what 
Christ says, in Matthew, viz., that a Christian shall not 
resist evil, but endure all things, let the coat go and the cloak, 
let them be taken from him, offer the 'other cheek, etc. Of 
this the pope, with his universities and cloister-schools, had 
made "an advice/* not a commandment, and not a rule 
that a Christian must keep; thus they had perverted Christ's 
word, spread false doctrine throughout the world, and de- 
ceived Christians. Since, therefore, they wanted to be 
Christians, nay, the best Christians in the world, and yet 
fight against the Turk, endure no evil, and suffer neither 
compulsion nor wrong, I opposed them with this saying of 
Christ that Christians shall not resist evil, but suffer all 

*In this edition, Vol. Ill, pp. 228 ff. 
a i.e., The clergy. 

Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved, above, p. 32. 
4 An "evangelical counsel/* necessary for perfection, but not demanded. Cf 
VoL III. pp. 229. 233. 

On War Against the Turk 83 

things and let all things go. Upon this I based the article 
that Pope Leo condemned. He did it the more gladly because 
I took the rogue's-cloak off the Roman knavery. 

For the popes had never seriously intended to make war 
on the Turk, but used the Turkish war as a conjurer's hat, The POP* 
playing around in it, and robbing Germany of money by ^^ 
means of indulgences, whenever they took the notion. 1 All wL 
the world knew it, but now it is forgotten. Thus they con- 
demned my article not because it prevented the Turkish war, 
but because it tore off this conjurer's hat and blocked the 
path along which the money went to Rome. If they had 
seriously wished to fight against the Turk, the pope and the 
cardinals would have had enough from the pallia, 3 annates, 3 
and other unmentionable sources of income, so that they 
would not have needed to practice such extortion and rob- 
bery in Germany. If there had been a general opinion that 
a serious war was at hand, I could have dressed my article 
up better and made some distinctions. 

It did not please me, either, that the Christians and the 
princes were driven, urged, and irritated into attacking the 
Turk and making war on him, before they amended their 
own ways and lived like true Christians. These two points, 
or either separately, were enough reason to dissuade from 
war. For I shall never advise a heathen or a Turk, let alone 
a Christian, to attack another or begin war. That is nothing- 
else than advising bloodshed and destruction, and it brings 
no good fortune in the end, as I have written in the book 
On Soldiers ; 4 and it never does any good when one 
knave punishes another without first becoming good himself, 

But what moved me most of all was this. They undertook Chris- 
to fight against the Turk tinder the name of Christ, and ***** 
taught men and stirred them up to do this, as though our 
people were an army of Christians against the Turks, who 
were enemies of Christ ; and this is straight against Christ's 
doctrine and name. It is against His doctrine, because He 
says that Christians shall not resist evil, shall not fight or 

1 Cf. Vol. II, pp. 84 f. 
> Cf. Vol. II, p. 89. note 3. 
Cf. Vol. II, p. 84, note, 
pp. 32 f. 

84 On War Against the Turk 

quarrel, not take revenge or insist on rights. It is against 
His name, because in such an army there are scarcely five 
Christians, and perhaps worse people in the eyes of God than 
are the Turks; and yet they would all bear the name of 
Christ. This is the greatest of all sins and one that no Turk 
commits, for Christ's name is used for sin and shame and 
thus dishonored. This would be especially so if the pope and 
the bishops were in the war, for they would put the greatest 
shame and dishonor on Christ's name, since they are called 
to fight against the devil with the Word of God and with 
prayer, and would be deserting their calling and office and 
fighting with the sword against flesh and blood. This they 
are not commanded, but forbidden to do. 

how gladly would Christ receive me at the Last Judg- 
ment, if when summoned to the spiritual office, to preach 
and care for souls, I had left it and busied myself with 
fighting and with the temporal sword! And how should 
Christ come to it that He or His have anything to do with 

John the sword and go to war, and kill men's bodies, when He 

3:17 glories in it that He has come to save the world, not to kill 

people ? For His work is to deal with the Gospel and by His Spirit to redeem men from sin and death, nay, to help them 

from this world to everlasting life. According to John vi, 

John He fled and would not let Himself be made king: before 

1 R *1t\ 

Pilate He confessed, "My kingdom is not of this world"; 
and He bade Peter, in the garden, put up his sword, and 
26:52 said, "He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword." 

1 say this not because I would teach that worldly rulers 
ought not be Christians, or that a Christian cannot bear the 
sword and serve God in temporal government. Would God 
they were all Christians, or that no one could be a prince 
unless he were a Christian! Things would be better than 
they now are and the Turk would not be so powerful. But 
what I would do is keep the callings an^ offices distinct and 
apart, so that everyone can see io what he is called, and f ulr- 
fill the duties of his office faithfully -and with the heart, in 
the service of God, Of this I have written more than enough 

On War Against the Turk 85 

elsewhere, especially in the books On Soldiers 1 and 
On Temporal Government. 3 For Paul will not Rom. 
suffer it that in the Church, where all should be Christians, 12:4 
one assume another's office (Romans xii and Corinthians i Co*, 
xii), but exhorts every member to his own work, so that 12:15 
no disorder arise, but everything be done in an orderly way. j 
How much less, then, is the disorder to be tolerated that H:4o 
arises when a Christian leaves his office and takes upon him 
a temporal office, or when a bishop or pastor leaves his 
office and takes upon him the office of a prince or judge ; or, 
on the other hand, when a prince takes up the office of a 
bishop and lets his princely office go? Even today this 
shameful disorder rages and rules in the whole papacy, con- 
trary to their own canons and laws. 

Inquire of experience how well we have succeeded hitherto 
with the Turkish war, though we have fought as Christians ; 
until we have lost Rhodes 8 and almost all of Hungary and ; 
much German land besides. And that we may perceive ' 
clearly that God is not with us in our war against the Turks, 
He has never put so much courage or spirit into the minds 
of our princes that they have been able even once to deal 
seriously with the Turkish war. Though many of the diets, 
almost all of them in fact, have been called and held on this 
account,* the matter will neither be settled nor arranged, and 
it seems as though God were mocking our diets and letting 
the devil hinder them and get the better of them until the 
Turk comes ravaging on at his leisure and ruins Germany 
without trouble and without resistance. Why does this 
happen ? Because my article, which Pope Leo condemned, re- 
mains uncondemned and in full force. Because the papists 
reject it, arbitrarily and without Scripture, the Turk must 
take its part and prove it with the fist and with deeds. If we 
will not learn out of the Scriptures, we must learn out of 
the Turk's scabbard, until we find in our hurt that Christians 

1 Above, pp, 32 ft. 
>Vol. Ill, PP. 228 ff. 

"Captured from the Hospitallers, December, 1522. 

/The diets of Nuremberg (1523 and 1524) and vi (1526 and 1529) 
discussed the Turkish war at length, ' 

86 On War Against the Turk 

are not to make war or resist evil. Fools must be chased 
with clubs. 

How many wars, think you, have there been against the 
Turk in which we would not have received heavy losses, if 
the bishops and clergy were there? How pitifully the fine 
king Lassla, with his bishops was beaten by the Turk at 
Defeat* Varna. 1 The Hungarians themselves blamed Cardinal Julian 3 
and killed him for it. Recently King Ludwig 3 would per- 
haps have fought with more success, if he had not led a 
priests' army or, as they call it, a Christian army against 
the Turks. If I were emperor, king, or prince in a cam- 
paign against the Turk, I would exhort my bishops and 
priests to stay at home and mind the duties of their office, 
praying, fasting, saying mass, preaching, and caring for the 
poor, as not only Holy Scripture, but their own canon law 
teaches and requires. If, however, they were to be disobe- 
dient to God and their own law and desire to go along to 
war, I would teach them by force to attend to their office 
and not, by their disobedience, put me and my army under 
God's wrath and into danger. It would be less harmful to 
have three devils in the army than one disobedient, apostate 
bishop, who had forgotten his office and assumed that of an- 
other. For there can be no good fortune with such people 
around, who go against God and their own law. 

I have heard of fine soldiers who have thought that the 
king of France, when he was defeated and captured by the 
emperor before Pavia, had all of his bad fortune because he 
had the pope's, or as they boastfully call them, the Church's, 
people with him. For after they came to his camp with a 
great cry of Ecclesia, ecclesia ! "Church, Church !" 
there was no more good fortune there. This is what the 
soldiers say, though perhaps they do not know the reason 
for it, viz., that is not right for the pope, who wants to be a 

iWladislaw (Ladislas) III of Poland and Hungary, killed in the battle of 
Varna, November 10, 1444. 

a GiuIiano Casarini, papal legate in Hungary, who had preached the crusade. 
He was present at the battle of Varna, and killed during the retreat after the 

* King Lewis It of Bohemia and Hungary was killed in the battle of Mohacs, 
August 29, 1525. 

On War Against the Turk 87 

Christian, and the highest and best Christian preacher at 
that, to lead a church army, or army of Christians. For the 
Church ought not strive or fight with the sword ; it has other E P L 
enemies than flesh and blood, their name is the wicked devils 6:12 
in the air; therefore it has other weapons and swords and 
other wars, so that it has enough to do, and cannot mix in 
the wars of the emperor or princes, for the Scriptures say I ^5 
that there shall be no good fortune where men are disobe- 
dient to God. 

Again, if I were a soldier and saw in the field a priests' 
banner, or banner of the cross, even though it were a crucifix 
I should run as though the devil were chasing me ; and even 
if they won a victory, by God's decree, I should not take any 
part in the booty or the rejoicing. Even the wicked iron-eater, 
Pope Julius, 1 who was half devil, did not succeed, but had to 
call at last on the Emperor Maximilian and let him take 
charge of the game, despite the fact that Julius had more 
money, arms, and people. I think, too, that this latest pope, 
Clement, 3 whom people held almost a god of war, succeeded 
well with his fighting until he lost Rome and all its wealth to 
a few ill-armed soldiers. The conclusion is this : Christ will 
teach them to understand my article, that Christians shall not 
make war, and the condemned article must take its revenge, 
for it is said of Christians and will be uncondemned and 
right and true ; although they do not care and do not believe 
it, but rush on more and more, hardened and unrepentant, 
and go to destruction. To this I say Amen, Amen. 

It is true, indeed, that since they have temporal lordship 
and wealth, they ought to make out of it the same contribu- 
tions to the emperor, kings, or princes that other holdings 
properly make, and render the same services that others are 
expected to render. Nay, these "goods of the Church/* as 
they call them, ought above all others to serve and help in 
the protection of the needy and the welfare of all classes, for 
they are given for that purpose, not in order that a bishop 
may forget his office and use them for war or battle. If the 

1 Jtditi II (1503-13). 

'Clement VII (1523-30). Rome was sacked by the army of Charles V, May 
6* 1527. When Luther wrote, this the pope was the emperor's prisoner. 

88 On War Against the Turk 

banner of Emperor Charles or of a prince is in the field, 
then let everyone run boldly and gladly to the banner to 
which his allegiance is sworn ; but if the banner of a bishop, 
cardinal, or pope is there, then run the other way, and say 
"I do not know this coin ; if it were a prayer book, or the 
Holy Scriptures preached in the Church, I would rally to it." 
Now before I exhort or urge to war against the Turk, 
hear me, for God's sake, while I first teach you how to fight 
w fth a good conscience. For although, if I wanted to give 

Turk way to the old Adam, I could keep quiet and look on while 
the Turk revenged me upon the tyrants who persecute the 
Gospel and subject me to all kinds of pain, and paid them 
back for it, nevertheless, I shall not do this, but rather serve 
both friends and enemies, so that my sun may rise on both 

afcg, bad and good, and my rain fall on the thankful and un- 
5:45 thankful. 

In the first place, it is certain that the Turk has no right 
or command to begin war and to attack lands that are not 
his. Therefore, his war is nothing else than outrage and 
robbery, with which God is punishing the world, as He often 
does through wicked knaves, and sometimes through godly 
people. For he does not fight from necessity or to protect 
his land in peace, as the right kind of a ruler does, but like 
a pirate or highwayman, he seeks to rob and damage other 
lands, who are doing and have done nothing to him. He is 
isa. io:5 God's rod and the devil's servant; there is no doubt about 

In the second place, it must be known that the man, who- 
ever he is, who is going to make war against the Turk, must 
be sure that he has a commission from God and is doing 
right. He must not plunge in for the sake of revenge or 
have some other mad notion or reason. He must be sure of 
this, so that, win or lose, he may be in a state of salvation 
and in a godly occupation. There are two of these men, and 
there ought to be only two: the one is named Christian, the 
Th other Emperor Charles. 

Christian should be first, with his army. For since the 
Turk is the rod of the wrath of the Lord our God and the 

On War Against the Turk 89 

servant of the raging devil, the first thing to be done is to 
smite the devil, his lord, and take the rod out of God's hand, 
so that the Turk may be found in his own strength only, all 
by himself, without the devil's help and without God's hand. 
This should be done by Sir Christian, that is, the pious, holy, 
dear body of Christians. They are the people who have the 
arms for this war and know what to do with them. If the 
Turk's god, the devil, is not first beaten, there is reason to 
fear that the Turk will not be so easy to beat. Now the 
devil is a spirit, who cannot be beaten with armor, guns, 
horses, and men, and God's wrath cannot be allayed by 
them, as it is written in Psalm xxxiii, "The Lord hath no 
pleasure in the strength of the horse, neither delighteth he in * 33:17 
any man's legs; the Lord delighteth in them that fear him *i47:io 
and wait for his goodness." Christian weapons and power 
must do it. 

Here you ask, "Who are the Christians and where does 
one find them?" Answer: They are not many, but they are 
everywhere, though they are spread out thin and live far 
apart, under good and bad princes. Christendom must con- 
tinue to the end, as the article of the Creed says, "I believe 
one holy Christian Church." But if that is true, it must be 
possible to find them. Every pastor and preacher ought to 
exhort his people most diligently to repentance and to, prayer. 
They ought to drive men to repentance by showing our great 
and numberless sins and our ingratitude, by which we have 
earned God's wrath and disfavor, so that He justly gives us 
into the hands of the devil and the Turk. That this preach- 
ing may work the more strongly, they ought to cite examples 
and sayings out of the Scriptures, such as the Flood, Sodom 
and Gomorrah, and the children of Israel, and show how 
cruelly and how often God punished the world, and its lands 
and peoples ; and they ought to make it plain that it is no 
wonder, since we sin more heavily than they did, if we are 
punished worse than they. 

Verily, this fight must be begun with repentance, and we Men 
must reform our lives, or we shall fight in vain; as the Mnrt 
prophet Jeremiah says in the xviii chapter,, "I will speak at B ^"* 18 . 
one time against a kingdom to pluck it up, destroy it, and *j s. * 

90 On War Against the Turk 

scatter it ; but if that people against which I speak repent, I 
will repent me of the evil that I thought to do it ; again I 
speak of a kingdom and people to plant and build it, but 
if it do evil in my sight, and hear not my voice, I will repent 
me of the good that I had said I would do it. Therefore, 
speak to them of Judah and them of Jerusalem, and say, 
Behold I prepare a calamity for you and think evil against 
you ; let each of you, then, turn from his evil way and make 
your deeds good." This saying we may apply to ourselves as 
though it had been spoken to us, for God devises an evil 
against us because of our wickedness and certainly prepares 
PS. 7: the Turk against us, as He says also in Psalm vii, "If a man 
i2ff. turn not, he hath whetted his sword and stretched his bow, 
and aimed it, and laid a deadly bolt in it." 

Along with these must be cited the words and illustrations 
of Scripture in which God makes it known how well He is 
pleased with true repentance or amendment, made in faith 
and reliance on His Word, such as, in the Old Testament 
the examples of Kings David, Ahab, Mannasseh, and the 
like ,* in the New Testament of St. Peter, the malefactor, the 
publican in the Gospel, and so forth. Although I know that 
to the scholars and saints, who need no repentance, this 
advice of mine will be laughable and that they hold it for a 
simple and common thing which they have long since got 
beyond; nevertheless, I have not been willing to omit for the 
sake of myself and sinners like myself, who need both re- 
pentance and exhortation to repentance "every day. In spite 
of it, we remain all too lazy and lax, and have not, with those 
Lt>ke "ninety and nine just persons," got so far over the hill as they 
15:7 permit themselves to think they have. 
They After people have been thus taught and exhorted to con- 
Must fess their sin and amend their ways, they should then be 
Pray exhorted with the utmost diligence to prayer, and shown how 
such prayer pleases God, how He has commanded it and 
promised to hear it, and that no one ought to think lightly 
of his own praying, or have doubts about it, but be sure, 
with firm faith, that it will be heard ; all of which has been 
published by us in many tracts. For the man who doubts, or 
prays at a venture, would do better to let it alone, because 

On War Against the Turk 91 

such prayer is merely a tempting of God and only makes 
things worse. Therefore, I would advise against proces- 
sions, 1 which are a heathenish and useless practice, for they 
are pomp and show rather than prayer. It might, indeed, be 
of some use to have the people, especially the young people, 
sing the Litany at mass or vespers or in the church after the 
sermon, provided that everyone, at home, by himself, con- 
constantly raised to Christ at least a sigh of the heart for 
grace to lead a better life and for help against the Turk. I 
am not speaking of much long praying, but of frequent brief 
sighs, in one or two words, such as "O help us, dear God 
the Father; have mercy on us, dear Lord Jesus Christ I" 
or the like. 

Lo, this kind of preaching will strike the Christians and 
find them out, and there will be Christians who will accept 
it and act according to it ; it matters not if you do not know 
who they are. The tyrants and bishops may also be exhorted 
to desist from their raging and persecution against the Word 
of God and not to hinder our prayer; but if they do not 
desist, we must not cease to pray, but keep on, and take the 
chance that they will have the benefit of our prayer and be 
preserved along with us, or that we shall pay for their rag- 
ing and be ruined along with them. They are so perverse 
and blind that if God gave good fortune against the Turk, 
they would ascribe it to their holiness and merit and boast 
of it against us. On the other hand, if things turned out 
badly, they would ascribe it to no one but us, and lay the 
blame on us, disregarding the shameful, openly sinful, and 
wicked life, which they not only lead, but defend; for they 
cannot teach rightly a single point about the way to pray, 
and they ate worse than the Turks. 3 Ah, well We must 
leave that to God's judgment! 

In this exhortation to prayer, also, we must introduce 
sayings and examples from the Scriptures, in which it is 
shown how strong and mighty a man's prayer has sometimes 
been; for example, Elijah's prayer, which St. James praises; Jas. 5:17 

l The ceremonial processions were regarded as. especially solemn forms of 
prayer. See Cath. En eye., XII, 446 ff. 
a Cf . Vol. II, p. 82. 

92 On War Against the Turk 

I Kings the prayers of Elisha and other prophets; of Kings David, 
17:1 Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jesis, 1 Hezekiah, etc.; the story 

God promised Abraham that He would spare the 
land of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of five righteous 

jas. 5:i6 men . . or ^ e p rave r of righteous men can do much if it be 
persistent, says St. James in his Epistle. They are to be 
informed, besides, that they shall be careful not to anger God 
by not praying, and not to fall under His judgment, in 

Ezek. Ezekiel xiii, where God says, "Ye have not set yourselves 
against me, and opposed yourselves as a wall before the 
house of Israel, to stand against the battle in the day of the 

Ezek. Lord" ; and in xxii, "I sought a man among them who would 

23:30f "be a wall, and stand against me for the land, that I should 

not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I poured my 

wrath upon them and consumed them with the fire of my 

anger and paid them as they deserved, saith the Lord/' 

From this it is easy to see that God would have men set 
themselves in the way of his wrath and keep it off, and that 
He is greatly angered if this is not done. That is what I 
meant when I spoke above 3 about taking the rod out of God's 
hands. Let him fast who will. Let him go down on his knees 
and bow and fall to the ground, if he is in earnest ; for the 
bowing and kneeling that has been practiced hitherto in the 
chapters and monasteries was not in earnest ; it was, and still 
is, mere apery. It is not for nothing that I exhort pastors and 
preachers to impress this upon the people, for I see plainly 
that it rests entirely with the preachers whether the people 
shall amend their ways and pray, or not. Little will be 
accomplished by preaching in which men call Luther names 
and blaspheme, and let repentance and prayer alone; but 
where God's Word is spoken, it is not without fruit. They, 
however, must preach as though they were preaching to 
saints who had learned all that there was to know about re- 
pentance and faith, and therefore had to talk about some- 
thing higher. 

We should have been moved to this prayer against the 
Turk by the great need of our time, for the Turk, as has 

1 Perhaps Josiah or Joash. 
a Cf. above, p. 89. 

On War Against the Turk 93 

been said, is the servant of the devil, who not only ruins ^ 
land and people with the sword, as we shall hear later, but Turk 
also lays waste the Christian Faith and our dear Lord Jesus 
Christ. For although some praise his government because 
he allows everyone to believe what he will so long as he 
remains the temporal lord, yet this praise is not true, for he 
does not allow Christians to come together in public, and no 
one can openly confess Christ or preach or teach against 
Mohammed. What kind of freedom of belief is it when no 
one is allowed to preach or confess Christ, and yet our Rom - 
salvation depends on that confession as Paul says, "To con- 10:9 
f ess with the lips saves," and Christ has strictly commanded Matt - 
to confess and teach His Gospel. 10:32 

Since, therefore, faith must be kept quiet and held secret 
among this barbarous and wild people and under this severe 
rule, how can it at last exist or remain, when there is need 
for so much trouble and labor, in places where it is preached 
most faithfully and diligently? Therefore, it happens, and 
must happen, that those Christians who are captured or 
otherwise get into Turkey fall away and become altogether 
Turkish, and it is very seldom that one remains true to his 
faith, for they lack the living bread of souls and see the 
free and fleshly life of the Turks and are obliged to adapt 
themselves to it. 

How can one injure Christ more than with these two 
things ; namely, force and wiles ? With force, they prevent 
preaching and suppress the Word. With wiles, they daily 
put wicked and dangerous examples before men's eyes and 
draw men to them. If we then would not lose our Lord 
Jesus Christ, His Word and faith, we must pray against 
the Turks as against other enemies of our salvation and of 
all good. Nay, as we pray against the devil himself. 

In this connection, the people should be told of all the 
dissolute Iffe and ways that the Turk practices, so. that they 
may the better feel the need of prayer. To be sure, it has _ 
often disgusted me and still does, that neither our great wicked 
lords nor our scholars have been at any pains to give us "^^ 
any certain knowledge about the life of the Turks in the two Turk 

94 On War Against the Turk 

classes, spiritual and temporal ; and yet he has come so near 
to us. For it is said that they too have chapters and monas- 
teries. Some indeed have invented outrageous lies about 
the Turks in order to stir up us Germans against them, but 
there is no need for lies ; the truth is all too great. I will 
tell my dear Christians a few things, so far as I know the 
real truth, so that they may the better be moved and stirred 
tip to pray earnestly against the enemy of Christ our Lord. 

I have some pieces of Mohammed's Koran which might 
be called in German a book of sermons or doctrines of the 
kind that we call pope's decretals. When I have time, I must 
put it into German so that every man may see what a foul 
and shameful book it is. 1 

In the first place, he praises Christ and Mary very much 
as those who alone were without sin, and yet he believes 
nothing more of Christ than that he is a holy prophet, like 
Jeremiah or Jonah, and denies that he is God's Son and 
true God. Besides, he does not believe that Christ is the 
Saviour of the world, Who died for our sins, but that He 
preached to His own time, and completed His work before 
His death, just like any other prophet. 

On the other hand, he praises and exalts himself highly 
and boasts that he has talked with God and the angels, and 
that since Christ's office of prophet is now complete, it has 
been commanded to him to bring the world to his faith and 
if the world is not willing, to compel it or punish it with the 
sword; and there is much glorification of the sword in it. 
Therefore, the Turks think their Mohammed much higher 
and greater than Christ, for the office of Christ has ended 
and Mohammed's office is still in force. 

From this anyone can easily observe that Mohammed is a 
destroyer of our Lord Christ and His kingdom, and if any- 
one denies concerning Christ, that He is God's Son and has 
died for us, and still lives and reigns at the right hand of 
God, what has he left of Christ? Father, Son, Holy Ghost, 
Baptism, the Sacrament, Gospel, Faith and all Christian doc- 
trine and life are gone, and there is left, instead of Christ, 

1 TTiis purpose was not fulfilled, partly because of Luther's difficulty in 
securing a Latin text. See B e r 1 i n E d . , vii, 456, n. 1. 

On War Against the Turk 95 

nothing more than Mohammed with his doctrine of works 
and especially of the sword. That is the chief doctrine of 
the Turkish faith in which all abominations, all errors, all 
devils are piled tip in one heap. 

And yet, the world acts as though it were snowing pupils 
of the Turkish faith, for it pleases the reason extraordinarily 
well that Christ should not be God, as the Jews also believe, 
and especially is Reason pleased with the thought that men 
are to rule and bear the sword and get up in the world ; then 
the devil pushes it along. Thus a faith is patched together 
out of the faith of Jews, Christians and heathen. He gets it 
from the Christians when he praises Christ and Mary and 
the apostles and other saints. He gets it from the Jews that 
people are not to drink wine, are to fast the certain times of 
the year, wash like the Nazarites, and eat off the ground, 
and go on with such holy works as part of our monks do 
and hope for everlasting life at the Judgment Day, for, holy 
people that they are, they believe in the resurrection of the 
dead, though few of the papists believe in it. 

'What pious Christian heart would not be horrified at 
this enemy of Christ, since we see that the Turk allows no 
article of our faith to stand, except the single one about the 
resurrection of the dead? Then Christ is no redeemer, 
saviour, or king ; there is no forgiveness of sins, no grace, no 
Holy Ghost. Why should I say much? In the article that 
Christ is to be beneath Mohammed, and less than he, every- 
thing is destroyed. Who would not rather be dead than live 
under such a government, where he must say nothing about 
his Christ, and hear and see such blasphemy and abomination 
against Him? Yet it takes such a powerful hold, when it 
wins a land, that people even submit to it willingly. There- 
fore, let everyone pray who can pray that this abomination 
may not become lord over us and that we may not be pun- 
ished with this terrible rod of God's anger. 

In the second place, the Turk's Koran, or creed, teaches 
him to destroy not only the Christian faith, but also the an 
whole temporal government. His Mohammed, as has been 
said, commands that ruling is to be done by the sword, and eminent 
Vol. V7. 

96 On War Against the Turk 

in his Koran the sword is the commonest and noblest work. 
Thus the Turk is, in truth, nothing but a murderer or high- 
wayman, as his deeds show before men's eyes. St. Augus- 

PS. 76:4 tine 1 calls other kingdoms, too, great robbery; Psalm Ixxvi 
also calls them "fastnesses of robbers," 2 because it is but 
seldom that an empire has come up except by robbery, force, 
and wrong ; or at the very least, it is often seized and pos- 
sessed by wicked people without any justice, so that the 

G To-9 Scriptures, in Genesis x, call the first prince upon earth, 
Nimrod, a mighty hunter. But never has any kingdom come 
up and become so mighty by murder and robbery as that of 
the Turk; and he murders and robs every day, for it is 
commanded in their law, as a good and divine work, that 
they shall rob and murder, devour and destroy more and 
more those that are round about them; and they do this, 
and think that they are doing God service. Their govern- 
ment, therefore, is not a regular rulership, like others, for 
the maintenance of peace, the protection of the good, and the 
punishment of the wicked, but a rod of anger and a punish- 
ment of God upon the unbelieving world, as has been said. 
The work of murdering and robbing pleases the flesh in any 
case, because it enables men to gain high place and subject 
everyone's life and goods to themselves; how much more 
must the flesh be pleased when this is a commandment, as 
though God would have it so and it pleased Him well! 
Therefore among the Turks, too, they are held the best who 
are diligent to increase the Turkish kingdom and who are 
constantly murdering and robbing round about them. 

John ^is second thing must follow out of the first ; 8 for Christ 

8:44 says, in John viii, that the devil is a liar and murderer. With 
lies he kills souls, with murder bodies. If he wins with a 
lie, he does not take a holiday and make delay, but follows it 
up with murder. Thus when the spirit of lies had taken pos- 
session of Mohammed and the devil had murdered men's 
souls with his Koran and had destroyed the faith of Chris- 

1 Decivitate del IV, 4, 6. 

a Raubeberge, "mountains of prey" (Engl. R. V.) 

8 Lc., The murdering and robbing out of the false doctrine. 

On War Against the Turk 97 

tians, he had to go on and take the sword and attempt the 
murder of their bodies. The Turkish faith, then, has not made 
its progress by preaching and the working of miracles, but 
by the sword and by murder, and its success has been due 
to God's wrath, which ordered that, since all the world has a 
desire for the sword and robbery and murder, one should 
come who would give it enough of murder and robbery. 

All fanatics, as a rule, when the spirit of lies has taken Lies and 
possession of them and led them away from the true faith, Murdw 
have been unable to stop there, but have followed the lie 
with murder and taken up the sword, as a sign that they 
were children of the father of all lies and murder. Thus we 
read how the Arians became murderers and one of the great- 
est bishops of Alexandria, Lucius 1 by name, drove the ortho- 
dox out of the city, and went into the ship and held a naked 
sword in his own hand until the orthodox were all on board 
and had to go away ; and these tender, holy bishops commit- 
ted many other murders even at that time, which is almost 
twelve hundred years ago. Again, in the time of St. Augus- 
tine, which is almost eleven hundred years ago, the holy 
father shows, in his books, how many murders were com- 
mitted by the Donatists. 3 In such an utterly worldly way 
did the clergy conduct themselves ! They had only the name 
and guise of bishops among the Christians ; but because they 
had fallen away from the truth and become subject to the 
spirit of lies, they had to go f orward in his service and become 
wolves and murderers. Even in our own times, what was 
Muenzer seeking, except to become a new Turkish emperor? 
He was possessed of the spirit of lies and therefore there 
was no holding him back ; he had to go at the other work of 
the devil, take the sword and murder and rob, as the spirit of 
murder drove him, and he created such a rebellion and such 

And what shall I say of the most holy Father, the pope? 

*In 374, the Arian bishop, Lucius, drove the orthodox bishop, Peter, out of 
Alexandria. R e a 1 e n c y fc II, 42; Bright, Ageof the Fathers, I, 377. 

a Cf . Augustine, Contra Gandentitum, I, c. 22 (M i g n e xliii, 
720 f,) See Bright, Age of the Fathers II, 117. 

98 . On War Against the Turk 

Is it not true that he and his bishops have- become worldly 
lords, have fallen away from the Gospel, led by the spirit of 
lies, and embraced their own human doctrine, and thus have 
practiced murder, down to the present hour ? Read the his- 
tories of the time and you find that the principal business of 
popes and bishops has been to set emperors, kings, princes, 
lands, and people against one another, even themselves to 
fight and help in the work of murder and bloodshed. Why 
so? Because the spirit of lies never acts any other way. 
After he has made his disciples teachers of lies and deceivers, 
he has no rest until he makes them murderers, robbers, and 
blood-dogs. For who has ordered them to bear the sword, 
to make war, and to urge men on and stir them up to mur- 
der and war, when their duty was to attend to preaching 
and prayer? 

They call me and mine seditious, but when have I ever 
coveted the sword or urged men to take it, and not rather 
taught and kept peace and obedience, except that I have 
instructed and exhorted the regular temporal rulers to do 

Matt their duty and maintain peace and justice ? By its fruits one 
7:16 shall know the tree. I and mine keep and teach peace ; the 
pope, with his followers, makes war, murders, robs, and that 
not only his enemies; "but he bums, condemns, and perse- 
cutes the innocent, the pious, the orthodox, as a true Anti- 
christ. For he does this, "sitting in the temple of God," as 

II Thess. h^ O f the Church ; and that the Turk does not do. But as 


the pope is Antichrist, so the Turk is the very devil. The 
prayer of Christendom is against both. Both shall go down 
to hell, even though it may take the Last Day to send them 
there; and I hope it will not be long. 

Summing up what has been said : Where the spirit of lies 
is, there is also the spirit of murder, though he may not get 
to work or may be hindered. If he is hindered, he still 
laughs and is jubilant when murder is done, and at least 
consents to it, for he holds it right. But good Christians 
do not rejoice over any murder, not even over the misfor- 
tunes of their enemies. Since, then, Mohammed's Koran is 

On War Against the Turk 99 

such a great spirit of lies that it leaves almost nothing of 
Christian truth remaining, how could it have any other result 
than that it should become a great and mighty murderer, 
with both lies and murders under the show of truth and 
righteousness. As, therefore, lies destroy the spiritual order 
of faith and truth, so murder destroys all temporal order in- 
stituted by God ; for where murder and robbery are practiced, 
it is impossible that there should be a fine, praiseworthy tem- 
poral government, since they cannot think more highly of 
peace than of war and murder, or attend to the pursuits of 
peace, as one can see in soldiers. Therefore, the Turks do 
not regard the work of agriculture highly. 

The third point is that Mohammed's Koran thinks noth- 
ing of marriage, but permits everyone to take wives as he ^ 
will. Therefore, it is customary among the Turks for one Turk 
man to have ten or twenty wives and to desert or sell any 
of them that he will, when he will, so that in Turkey women 
are held immeasurably cheap and are despised ; they are 
bought and sold like cattle. Although there may be some 
few who do not take advantage of this law, nevertheless this 
is the law and anyone can follow if he will. Such a way of 
living is not marriage and cannot be marriage v because none 
of them takes a wife or has a wife with the intention of 
staying with her forever, as though the two were one body, Gen 
as God's Word says, in Genesis iii, "The man shall cleave to T-24 
his wife and they two be one body." Thus the marriage of 
the Turks closely resembles the chaste life that the soldiers 
live with their harlots ; for the Turks are soldiers and must 
act like soldiers ; Mars and Venus, say the poets, 1 must te 

These three points I have wanted to mention. I am sure 
of them from the Koran of the Turks. What I have heard 
beside I will not bring forward, because I cannot be sure 
about it. Suppose, then, that there are some Christians 
among the Turks; suppose that some of them are monks; 
suppose that some are honorable laymen; even then, what 

a Ovid, Triat. 2, 25; Weimar Ed., XXX*, p. 127, n. 1 

100 On War Against the Turk 

good can there be in the government and the whole Turkish 
way of life, when according to their Koran these three things 
rule among them; namely, lying, murder, and disregard of 
marriage, and besides, every one must keep Christian truth 
quiet and dare not rebuke or try to reform these three points, 
but must look on and consent to them, as I fear, at least so 
far as to be silent? How can there be a more horrible, dan- 
gerous, terrible imprisonment than a life under such a gov- 
ernment? Lies destroy the spiritual estate, murder the tem- 
poral, disregard of marriage the estate of matrimony. Now 
take out of the world veram religionem, veram 
politiam, veram oeconomiam, i.e., true spiritual 
life, true temporal government, and true conduct of the 
home ; what is left in the world, but flesh, world and devil ? 
A life there is like the life of the "good fellows" who keep 
house with harlots. 

It is said, indeed, that the Turks are, among themselves, 
faithful and friendly and careful to tell the truth. I believe 
that, and I think that they probably have more fine virtues 
in them than that. No man is so bad that there is not some- 
thing good in him. Now and then a woman of the streets 
has good qualities that scarcely ten honorable matrons have. 
So the devil would have a cloak and be a fair angel, an angel 
of light; therefore he hides behind certain works, that are 
works of the light. Murderers and robbers are more faith- 
ful and friendly to each other than neighbors are, nay, more 
so than many Christians. For if the devil keeps the three 
things lies, murder, and disregard of marriage as the real 
foundation of hell, he can easily tolerate, nay, help, that 
fleshly love and faithfulness shall be built upon it, as precious 
stones (though they are nothing but hay and straw), though 
he knows well that nothing of them will remain through the 
fire. 1 On the other hand, where true faith, true government, 
true marriage are, he tries earnestly that little love and fidel- 
ity may appear and little be shown, so that he can put the 
foundation to shame and have it despised. 

*With this passage compare I Cor. 3: 11-15. 

On War Against the Turk 101 

What is more, when the Turks go into battle their war- 
cry is no other word than "Allah! Allah!" and they shout it 
till heaven and earth resound. But in the Arabic language 
Allah means God, and is a corruption of the Hebrew 
E 1 o h a . For they have taught in the Koran that they shall 
boast constantly with these words, "There is no God but 
God." All that is really a device of the devil. For what is 
it to say, "There is no God but God" without distinguishing 
one God from another? The devil, too, is a god and they 
honor him with this word; of that there is no doubt. In 
just the same way the pope's soldiers cry "Ecclesia ! 
Ecclesia !" To be sure: the devil's ecclesia ! There- 
fore I believe that the Turks' Allah does more in war 
than they themselves. He gives them courage and wiles, 
guides sword and fist, horse and man. What do you think, 
then, of the holy people who can call upon God in battle, and 
yet destroy Christ and all God's words and works, as you 
have heard? 

It is part of the Turks' holiness, also, that they tolerate 
no images or pictures and are even holier than our destroyers 
of images. For our destroyers tolerate, and are glad to have, 
images on gulden, groschen, rings, and ornaments ; 
but the Turk tolerates none of them and stamps nothing but 
letters on his coins. He is entirely Muenzerian, too, for he 
overthrows all rulers and tolerates no gradations of govern- 
ment, such as princes, counts, lords, nobles and other feuda- 
tories ; but he alone is lord over all in his own land, and 
what he gives out is only pay, never property or rights of 
rulership. He is also a papist; for he believes that he will 
become holy and be saved by works, and thinks it no sin to 
overthrow Christ, lay government waste, and destroy mar- 
riage. All these things the pope also works at, though in 
other ways, with hypocrisy, while the Turk uses force and 
the sword. In a word, as has been said, it is the very dregs 
of all abominations and errors. 

All this I have wanted to tell to the first man, 1 namely, 

1 Cf. p. 88. 

102 On War Against the Turk 

the community of Christians, so that he may know and see 
how much need there is for prayer, and how we must first 
smite the Turk's Allah, that is, his god, the devil, and 
strike down his power and godhead; otherwise, I fear, the 
sword will accomplish little. For this man is not to fight in 
a bodily way with the Turk, as the pope and his followers 
teach, nor resist him with the fist, but recognize the Turk as 
God's rod and anger, which Christians must either suffer, if 
God visits their sins upon them, or fight against and drive 
away with repentance, tears, and prayer. He who despises 
this counsel, let him despise it; I want to see what damage 
he will do the Turk, 

The second man whose place it i& to fight against the Turk 
is Emperor Charles, or whoever is emperor; for the Turk 
n.Th6 attacks his subjects and his empire, and it is his duty, as a 
Empor regular ruler appointed by God, to defend his own. I repeat 
it here, that I would not urge anyone or tell anyone to fight 
against the Turk unless the first method, mentioned above, 
had been followed, and men had first repented and been 
reconciled to God, etc. If anyone will go to war besides, let 
him take his risk. It is not proper for me to say anything 
more about it beyond telling everyone his duty and instruct- 
ing his conscience. 

I see clearly that kings and princes are taking such a silly 
and careless attitude toward the Turk that I fear they are 
despising God and the Turk too greatly, or do not know, 
perhaps, that the Turk is such a mighty lord that no king- 
dom or land, whatever it is, is strong enough to resist him 
alone, unless God will do a miracle. 1 Now I cannot expect 
any miracle or special grace of God for Germany, unless 
men amend their ways and honor the Word of God differ- 
ently than has hitherto been done. 

But enough has been said about that for those who will 
listen. We would now speak of the emperor. 

In the first place, if there is to be war against the Turk, 

*In the raising c_ 

a, miracle. See D e W e tt e III, 518. 

On War Against the Turk 103 

it should be fought at the emperor's command, under his 
banner, and in his name. Then everyone can assure his own 
conscience that he is obeying the ordinance o God, since we 
know that the emperor is our true overlord and head, and he mand 
who obeys him, in such a case, obeys God also, while he who 
disobeys him disobeys God also. If he dies in this obedience, 
he dies in a good state, and if he has previously repented and 
believes on Christ, he is saved. These things, I suppose, 
everyone knows better than I can teach him, and would to 
God they knew them as well as they think they do. Yet we 
will say something more about them. 

In the second place, this banner and obedience of the 
emperor ought to be true and simple. The emperor should 
seek nothing else than simply to perform the work and duty of ma 
of his office, which is to protect his subjects ; and those under s*^* 8 
his banner should seek simply the work and duty of obedi- 
ence. By this simplicity you should understand that there is 
to be no fighting of the Turk for the reasons for which the 
emperors and princes have heretofore been urged to war, 
such as the winning of great honor, glory, and wealth, the 
increasing of lands, or wrath and revengefulness and other 
things of the kind ; for by these things men seek only their 
own self-interest, and therefore we have had no good for- 
tune heretofore, either in fighting or planning to fight against 
the Turk. 

Therefore the urging and inciting, with which the emperor 
and the princes have heretofore been stirred up to fight 
against the Turk, ought to cease. He has been urged, as 
head of Christendom, as protector of the Church and de- 
fender of the faith, to wipe out the faith of the Turk, and 
the urging and exhorting have been based on the wickedness 
and vice of the Turks. Not so ! The emperor is not head 
of Christendom or protector of the Gospel or of the faith. 
The Church and the faith must have another protector than 
emperor and kings. They are usually the worst enemies of 
Christendom and of the faith, as Psalm ii says and the Ps - 2:2 
Church constantly laments. With that kind of urging and 

104 On War Against the Turk 

exhorting things are only made worse and God is the more 
deeply angered, because that interferes with His honor and 
His work, and would ascribe it to men, which is idolatry 
and blasphemy. 

And if the emperor were to destroy the unbelievers and 
non-Christians, he would have to begin with the pope, bish- 
ops, and clergy and perhaps not spare us, or himself; for 
there is enough horrible idolatry in his own empire to make 
it unnecessary for him to fight the Turks for this cause. 
Among us there are Turks, Jews, heathen, non-Christians, 
all too many of them, proving it with public false doctrine 
and with offensive, shameful lives. Let the Turk believe 
and live as he will, just as one lets the papacy and other false 
Christians live. The emperor's sword has nothing to do 
with the faith ; it belongs to physical, worldly things, if God 
is not to become angry with us. If we pervert His order 
and throw it into confusion, He, too, becomes perverse and 
throws us into confusion and all misfortune, as it is written, 
Pa. 18:26 "With the perverse thou art perverse." We can perceive and 
grasp this by means of the fortune we have heretofore had 
against the Turk. Think of all the heartbreak and misery 
that have been caused by the c r u c i a t a, 1 by the indulgences 
and crusading-taxes, with which Christians have been stirred 
up to take the sword and fight the Turk, when they ought to 
have been fighting the devil and unbelief with the Word and 
with prayer. 

This is what should be done. The emperor and the princes 
should be exhorted concerning their office and their bounden 
duty to give serious and constant thought to governing their 
subjects in peace and to protecting them against the Turk. 
This would be their duty whether they themselves were 
Christians or not, though it would be very good if they were 
Christians. But since it is uncertain, and remains so, that 
they are Christians, and it is certain that they are emperors 
and princes, that is, that they have God's command to pro- 
tect their subjects and are in duty bound to do so, therefore 

*The preaching of crusades. 

On War Against the Turk 105 

we must let the uncertain go and hold to the certain, urge 
them with continual preaching and exhortation, and lay it 
heavily upon their consciences, that it is their duty to God 
not to let their subjects be so pitiably ruined, and that they 
are doing a great and notable sin when they do not think of 
their office and use all their power to bring counsel and help 
to those who should live, with body and goods, under their 
protection and who are bound to them with oaths of homage. 
For I think (so far as I have yet observed the matter in 
our diets) that neither emperor nor princes believe them- 
selves that they are emperor and princes. For they act as 
though it lay with their own judgment and pleasure whether 
they would rescue and protect their subjects from the power 
of the Turk or not; and the princes neither care nor think 
that they are bound and obligated before God to counsel and 
help the emperor in this matter with body and goods. Every- 
one of them lets it go as though it were no affair of his and 
as though he were forced neither by command or necessity, 
but it were left to his own free choice to do it or leave it. 
They are just like the common people who do not think it 
their duty to God and the world, when they have bright sons, 
to put them to school and have them study; but everyone 
thinks he has free power to raise his son as he pleases, no 
matter what God's word and ordinance are. Nay, the coun- 
cilmen in the cities and almost all the rulers act in the same 
way, and let the schools go to nothing, as though they had no 
responsibility for tfiem, and had an indulgence besides. No 
one remembers that God earnestly commands, and will have 
it so, that bright children shall be raised to His praise and for 
His work, which cannot be done without the schools. On the 
contrary everyone is in a hurry to have his children making 
a living, as though God and Christendom needed no pastors, 
preachers, carers for souls, and the worldly rulers no chan- 
celors, counselors, or secretaries. But of this another time. 1 
The pen must remain empress, or God will show us some- 
thing else. 

See On Keeping Children in School, Vol. IV, p. 135 ff. 

106 On War Against the Turk 

Emperor, kings, and princes act the same way. They do 
not consider that God's commandment makes it necessary 
to protect their subjects ; it is to lie in their own free choice 
to do it, if the notion sometime takes them, or they have 
leisure for it. Dear fellow, let us all do that I Let none 
of us look to that which is commanded him and which God 
orders him to do, but let all our actions and duties be matters 
of our own free will, and God will give us good fortune and 
His grace, and we shall be plagued by the Turk here in time, 
and by the devil yonder in eternity. 

The, Perhaps, then, a worthless prattler, I should say a legate, 

POP , w iii come from Rome and exhort the estates of the empire 

B^out anc ^ st * r them up against the Turk, telling them how the 

of it enemy of the Christian faith has done such great harm to 

Christendom and that the emperor, as guardian of the Church 

and defender of the faith, should do so and so; as though 

they themselves were great friends of the Christian faith! 

But I say to him : You are a base-born knave, you impotent 

chatterer! For this way you accomplish nothing except to 

make the emperor feel that he should do a good Christian 

work that he is not commanded to do; and that rests with 

his free choice; his conscience is not touched at all by that, 

and he is not reminded of the necessary duty, laid upon him 

by God, but the whole thing is referred to his free will. 

This is the way that a legate ought to deal with the estates 
of the empire at the diet. He should hold God's command- 
ment before them and make of it an unavoidable necessity, 
and say: "Dear lords, emperor, and princes, if you would be 
emperor and princes, act as emperor and princes, or the Turk 
will teach you with God's wrath and disfavor. Germany, or 
the empire, is given you and committed to you by God, that 
you may protect, rule, counsel, and help it, and you not only 
should, but must do this on pain of losing your soul's salva- 
tion and God's favor and grace. But now it is evident that 
none of you takes this seriously, or believes it, but you take 
your office as a jest, as though it were a mummery of the 
carnival, for you leave the subjects, whom God has commit- 

On War Against the Turk 107 

ted to you, to be so wretchedly harassed, taken captive, put 
to shame, plundered, slain, and sold by the Turk. Do you 
not think, since God has committed this office to you, and has 
given you money and people besides for you to do good to 
them, that He will demand at your hands all the subjects 
whom you so shamefully deserted, while you danced, revelled, 
showed off, and gambled? If you seriously believed that 
you were appointed and ordained of God to be emperor and 
princes, you would leave your banqueting and rivalry for 
high places and other unprofitable display for a while, and 
consult faithfully how you might discharge your office and 
fulfil God's commandment and rescue your consciences from 
all the blood and the misery which the Turk inflicts upon 
them. For how can God, or any godly heart think otherwise 
of you than that you hate your subjects or have a secret 
covenant with the Turk or, at least, hold yourselves for 
neither emperor nor princes, but for dolls and puppets for 
children to play with? Otherwise, it would be impossible 
that your consciences should let you rest, if you seriously 
held yourselves for overlords appointed by God, and were 
not to speak and advise together about these matters differ- 
ently than you have done heretofore. In this you see that 
you are constantly becoming Turks to your own subjects. 

"Nay, you even take up the case of Luther and discuss, in 
the devil's name, whether one can eat meat in the fast-times 
and nuns can take husbands, and things of that kind, which 
are not committed to you for discussion and about which 
God has given you no commandment; and meanwhile the 
serious and strict commandment of God hangs in the smoke, 
the commandment by which He has appointed you protectors 
of poor Germany; and you become murderers, betrayers, and 
blood-dogs to your own good, faithful, obedient subjects, and 
leave them to the -Turk, nay, cast them into his jaws, as a 
reward for the bodies and money wealth and honor that they 
stake on you and reach out to you," 

A good orator can here see well what I would like to say, 
f I were learned in the art of oratory, and what a legate 

108 On War Against the Turk 

should aim at and expound at the diet, if he would discharge 
his office honestly and faithfully. 

For this re ason I said above that Charles, or the emperor, 
Banner should be the man to fight against the Turk, and that the 
fighting should be done under his banner. "O, that is easy ! 
Everybody knew it long ago. Luther is not telling us any- 
thing new, but only worn-out old stuff." Nay, dear fellow, 
the emperor must truly see himself with other eyes than 
heretofore, and you must see his banner with other eyes. 
You and I are talking about the same emperor and the same 
banner, but you are not talking about the eyes that I am 
talking about. You must see on the banner the command- 
ment of God that says, "Protect the good; punish the bad." 
Tell me how many there are who can read this on the emper- 
or's banner, or who seriously believe it. Do you not think 
that their consciences would terrify them, if they saw this 
banner and had to own that they were greatly guilty before 
God on account of their failure to give help and protection 
to their faithful subjects? Dear fellow, a banner is not 
simply a piece of silk; there are letters on it, and on him 
who reads the letters luxury and banqueting should pall. 

That it has been regarded heretofore as a mere piece of 
silk, is easy to prove, for otherwise the emperor would long 
ago have set it up, the princes would have followed it, and 
the Turk would not have become so mighty. But because the 
princes called it with their mouths* the emperor's banner, and 
were disobedient to it with their fists, and held it by their 
deeds a mere piece of silk, those things have come to the pass 
that we now see with our own eyes. God grant that we are 
not, all of us, too late, I with my exhortation and the lords 
with their banner; and that it may not happen to us as it did 
to the children of Israel who would not fight against the 
Amorites when God first commanded them; afterwards, 
41, 44 when they would have fought, they were beaten, because 
God would not be with them. Nevertheless, no one should 
despair; repentance and right conduct always find grace. 
After emperor and princes remember that, by God's com- 

On War Against the Turk 109 

mandment, they owe their subjects this protection, they 
should be exhorted not to be presumptuous and undertake 
this work defiantly, or in reliance on their own might or 
planning; for there are many princes who say, "I have right 
and authority, therefore I will do it !" Then they pitch in, 
with pride and boasting of their might, and meet defeat at 
last; for if they did not feel their power, the matter of right 
would have small enough effect on them, as is proved in other 
cases, in which they pay no heed to right. It is not enough, 
then, for you to know that God has committed this or that to 
you; you should also do it with fear and humility, for God 
commands no one to do anything by his own wisdom or 
strength, but He, too, will have a part in it and be feared. 
Nay, He will do it through us, and will therefore have us 
pray to Him, and not become presumptuous or forget His 
help, as the Psalter says, "The Lord hath pleasure in those 
that fear Him and wait for His kindness." Otherwise we *j 
should persuade ourselves that we could do things and did 
not need God's help, and take to ourselves the victory and 
the honor that belong to Him. 

Therefore an emperor or prince ought to learn well that 
verse of the Psalter, in Psalm xliv, "I rely not upon my bow, PS. 44: 
and my sword helps me not, but thou helpest us from our 6f * 
enemies and puttest to shame them that hate us," and also 
the rest of what that Psalm says ; and Psalm Ix, "Lord God, 
thou goest not out with our host ; give us aid in our need, for 
man's help is vain ; with God we will do deeds ; he shall tread Ps - 60: 
down our enemies." These and like sayings have had to be 
fulfilled by many kings and great princes, from the beginning- 
to the present day. They have become examples, though they 
had God's commandment and authority and right. Emperor 
and princes, therefore, should not let these sayings become 
a jest. Read here the apt illustration given in Judges xx, ^ 
how the children of Israel were twice beaten by the Benja- 20:isff. 
mites, despite the fact that God bade them fight and that 
they had the best of right. Their boldness and presumption 
were their downfall, as the text says, Fidentes f ortf- 

110 On War Against the Turk 

tudine et numero. 1 It is true that one should have 
horses and men and weapons and everything that is needed 
for battle, if they are to be had, so that one is not tempting 
God ; but when one has them, one must not be bold because 

Mac ^ * t? ^ or ^ 0< ^ * s not to ^ e forgotten or despised, since it is 
3:1 9 written, "All victory comes from heaven/' 

If these two things are present, God's commandment and 
our humility, then there is no danger or need, so far as this 
second man, the emperor, is concerned ; we are strong enough 
for the whole world and must have good fortune and suc- 
cess. But if we have not good fortune, it is certainly because 
one of the two things is lacking ; we are going to war either 
without God's commandment, or in our own presumption, 
or the first soldier, the Christian, is not there with his pray- 
ers. It is not necessary here to warn against seeking honor 
or booty in war; for he who fights in humility and obedience 
to God's command, with his mind fixed solely upon the sim- 
ple duty of protecting and defending his subjects, will forget 
honor and booty; nay, they will come to him, without his 
seeking, more richly and gloriously than he can wish. 

Here someone will say, "Where shall we find pious fight- 
Wher* ing-men, who will act this way?" Answer: The Gospel is 
Are the preached to all the world, and yet very few believe ; neverthe- 
^J** 8 less Christendom 2 believes and abides. Therefore I am writ- 
Had? ing this instruction with no hope that it will be accepted by 
all ; indeed, most people will laugh and scoff at me. For me 
it is enough if, with this book, I shall be able to instruct 
some princes and their subjects; even though they may be 
very few in number, that does not matter to me; there will 
be victory and good fortune enough. And would to God that 
I had instructed only the emperor, or him who is to conduct 
the war in his name and at his command; I would then be 
of good hope. It has often happened, indeed, it usually 

1 "Trusting m Bravery and numbers'* (Judges 20:22). This is the Latin 
text The English versions, and Luther's own Bible, follow the Hebrew and 
read, "The people encouraged themselves." 

*Christenheit is Luther's name for the totality of Christians, without 
reference to social and political groupings in Church or State- 

On War Against the Turk 111 

happens, God gives a whole land and kingdom good fortune 
and success through one single man; just as, on the other 
hand, through one knave at court He brings a whole land into 
all sorts of distress and misery; as Solomon says, in Ecclesi- Ecd. 
astes, "A single knave does great harm." 9:ls 

Thus we read of Naaman, the captain of the king of Syria, n King 
that through this one man God gave the whole land good for- 3:H 
tune and success. So through the holy Joseph He gave great 
good fortune to the whole kingdom of Egypt, and in IV 
Kings Hi, Elisha says to Jehoram, "I would not look to thee, Geu 
if Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, were not there," and thus the 39* 
godless kings of Israel and Edam had to be helped for the TT T . 

T r 11 ''* -**lSf 

sake of one godly man, when otherwise they would have been 3: u 
ruined in all kinds of distress ; and in the book of Judges one 
can see the good that God did through Ehud, Gideon, Deb- 
orah, Samson, and other individuals, though the people were 
not worthy of it. See, on the other hand, what great harm SanL 
Doeg did at the court of King Saul (I Kings xxii) and what 2203 
Absalom accomplished against his father David, with the aid 
and counsel of Ahithophel (II Kings xv). n Sam - 

I say this in order that it may not frighten us, or move us 16:22ff 
in any way, if the great majority are unbelieving and fight 
under the emperor's banner with an unchristian mind. We 
must remember, too, that Abraham, all by himself, was able 
to do much (Genesis xiv and xvii). It is certain, also, that Gen. u 
among the Turks, who are the army of the devil, there is ^ 18 
not one who is a Christian or has an humble and a right 
heart. In I Kings xiv, the godly Jonathan said, "It is not i Sam 
hard for God to give victory by many or by few," and him- 14r6 
self inflicted on the Philistines a great slaughter such as 
Saul could not, with his whole army. It does not matter, 
therefore, if the crowd is not good, provided only that the 
head and some of the chief men are upright; it would be 
good, of course, if all were upright, but that is scarcely 

Moreover, I hear it said that there are those in Germany 
who desire the coming of the Turk and his government, be- 
cause they would rather be under the Turk than under the 
VoL V 8. 

112 On War Against the Turk 

emperor or princes. It would be hard to fight against the 
Turk with such people. Against them I have no better 
advice to give than that pastors and preachers be exhorted to 
be diligent in their preaching and faithful in instructing such 
people, pointing out to them the danger they are in and the 
wrong that they are doing, how they are making themselves 
partakers of great and numberless sins and loading them- 
selves down with them in the sight of God, if they are found 
in this opinion. For it is misery enough to be compelled to 
suffer the Turk as overlord and to endure his government; 
but willingly to put oneself under it, or to desire it, when 
one need not and is not compelled^ the man who does that 
ought to be shown the sin he is committing and how terribly 
he is going on. 

The In the first place, these people are faithless and guilty of 

81x1 of perjury to their rulers, to whom they have taken oaths and 
done homage ; and this is in God's sight a great sin that does 
j^ not go unpunished. On account of such perjury the good 
21:7 king Zedekiah had to perish miserably, because he did not 
keep the oath that he gave to the heathen emperor at Baby- 
lon. Such people may think, or persuade themselves, that 
it is within their own power and choice to betake themselves 
from one lord to another, acting as though they were free 
to do or not to do what they pleased, forgetting and not 
remembering God's commandment and their oath, by which 
they are in duty bound to be obedient, until they are forcibly 
compelled to abandon it or are put to death for it; as the 
peasants thought, in the recent rebellion, and were beaten 
because of it. For just as a man may not slay himself, but 
endure until he is forcibly slain by others, so no one should 
evade his obedience or his oath, unless he is released from it 
by others, either by force or by favor and permission. 1 

The preachers must diligently impress this on such people; 
indeed their office of preaching compels them to do so, for 
it Is their duty to warn their parishioners, and guard them 
against sin and harm to their souls. For one who willingly 

1 i.e., With the consent of the ruler to whom the oath of allegiance was given. 

On War Against the Turk 113 

turns from his lord and takes the side of the Turk can never 
stay under the Turk with a good conscience, but his own 
heart will always speak to him and rebuke him thus, "See, 
you were faithless to your overlord and deprived him of the 
obedience that you owed him, and robbed him of his right 
to rule over you ; now, no sin can be forgiven unless stolen 
goods are restored; but how shall you make restitution to 
your lord, when you are under the Turk and cannot make 
restitution. One of two things, then, must happen ; either 
you must toil and labor forever, trying to get away from the 
Turk and back to your overlord; or your conscience must 
forever suffer compunction, pain and unrest (if, indeed, it 
does not result in despair and everlasting death), because 
-you submitted to the Turk willingly and without necessity, 
against your sworn duty. In the latter case you must be 
among the Turks with your body, but over on this side with 
your heart and conscience. What have you gained then? 
Why did you not stay on this side from the first?" 

In the second place, beside all that, such faithless, disloyal, 
perjured folk commit a still more horrible sin. They make 
themselves partakers of all the abominations and wickedness 
of the Turks ; for he who willingly goes over to the Turks 
makes himself their comrade and an accomplice in all their 
doings. Now we have heard above what kind of man the 
Turk is, viz., a destroyer, enemy, and blasphemer of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, who instead of the Gospel and faith, sets 
up his shameful Mohammed and all kinds of lies, ruins all 
temporal government and home-life, or marriage, and, since 
his warfare is nothing but murder and bloodshed, is a tool of 
the devil himself. See, then! He who consorts with the 
Turk must be partaker of this terrible abomination and brings 
down on his own head all the murder, all the blood that the 
Turk has shed, and all the lies and vices with which he has 
damaged Christ's Kingdom and led souls astray. It is mis- 
erable enough if one is forced to be under this blood-dog 
and devil against his own will, and see and hear these abomi- 
nations, and put up with them as the godly Lot had to do in 

114 On War Against the Turk 

ii Pet Sodom, as St. Peter writes ; it is not necessary to seek them 
2: ' of one's own accord, or desire them. 

Nay, a man ought far rather die twice over in war, obedi- 
ent to his overlord, than have, like a poor Lot, to be brought 
by force into such Sodoms and Gomorrahs. Still less ought 
a godly man long to go there of his own accord, in disobe- 
dience, and against God's commandment and his own duty. 
That would mean not only to become partaker in all the 
wickedness of the Turk and the devil, but to strengthen and 
further them ; just as Judas not only made himself partaker 
of the wickedness of the Jews against Christ, but strength- 
John ened it and helped it along, while Pilate did not act as evilly 
as Judas, as Christ testifies in John xvii. 

In the third place, it is to be impressed by the preachers on 
the people that, if they do go over to the Turks, they will not 
have bettered themselves and their hopes and intentions will 
not be realized. For it is the Turk's way not to let any who 
are anything or have anything stay in the place where they 
live, but to put them far back in another land, where they are 
sold and must be servants. Thus they fulfill the proverb 
"Running out of the rain and falling in the water"; and 
"Lifting the plate and breaking the dish." Bad becomes 
worse; it scarcely serves them wrong. For the Turk is a 
true man of war, who has other ways of treating land and 
people, both in getting them and keeping them, than our 
emperor, kings, and princes have. He does not trust and 
believe these disloyal people and has the force to do as he 
will; thus he has not the same need of people that our princes 

The preachers and pastors, I say, must impress this upon 
such disloyal people, with constant admonition and warning, 
for it is the truth, and it is needed. But if there are some 
who despise this exhortation and will not be moved by it, 
let them go on to the devil, as St. Paul had to let the Greeks, 
and St. Peter the Jews go ; the others should not mind. In- 
deed, if it were to come to war, I would rather that none of 
these were under the emperor's banner, or stayed under it, 

On War Against the Turk 115 

but were all on the Turk's side ; they would be beaten all the 
sooner and in battle they would do the Turk more harm than 
good, for they are out of favor with God, the devil, and the 
world, and are surely, all of them, condemned to hell. It is 
good to fight against such people, who are plainly and surely 
damned both by God and the world. There are many de- 
praved and abandoned and wicked men; but anyone with 
any sense will without doubt, heed such exhortation and 
be moved to stay in his obedience, and not throw his soul so 
carelessly into hell to the devil, but rather fight with all his 
might under his overlord, even though, in so doing, he is 
slain by the Turks. 

But you say again, "If the pope is as bad as the Turk 
and you yourself call him Antichrist, together with his 
clergy and his followers then the Turk is as godly as the The 
pope, for he acknowledges the four Gospels and Moses, to- 
gather with the prophets ; must we not, then, fight the pope P P 
as well as the Turk, or, perhaps, rather than the Turk?" 
Answer: I cannot deny that the Turk holds the four Gospels 
to be divine and true, as well as the prophets, and also speaks 
very highly of Christ and His mother, but at the same time, 
he believes that his Mohammed is above Christ and that 
Christ is not God, as has been said above. We Christians 
acknowledge the Old Testament as divine Scripture, but now 
that it is fulfilled and is, as St. Peter says, in Acts xv, too Acts 15: 
hard without God's grace, it is abolished and no longer binds iaf * 
us. Just so Mohammed treats the Gospel ; he declares that 
it is indeed true, but has long since served its purpose ; also 
that it is too hard to keep, especially on the paints where 
Christ says that one is to leave all for His sake, love God 
with the whole heart, and the like. Therefore God has had 
to give another new law, one that is not so hard and that the 
world can keep, and this law is the Koran. But if anyone 
asks why fee does tio nairades to confirm this new law, he 
says that that is unnecessary and of HO use, for people had 
many mirade$ before, when Moses 5 law and the Gospel 
arose, and did not believe. Therefore his Koran did not 

116 On War Against the Turk 

need to be confirmed by wasted miracles, but by the sword, 
which is more effective than miracles. Thus it has been, and 
still is the case among the Turks, that everything is done 
with the sword, instead of with miracles. 

On the other hand, the pope is not much more godly than 
Mohammed and resembles him extraordinarily; for he, too, 
praises the Gospel with his lips, but holds that many things 
in it are too hard, and these things are the very ones that 
Mohammed and the Turks also consider too hard, such as 
5:2off.those contained in Matthew v. Therefore he interprets them, 
and makes of them c o n s i 1 i a , i.e., "counsels," which 
no one is bound to keep unless he desires to do so, as has 
been shamelessly taught at Paris, and in other universities, 
foundations, and monasteries. Therefore, too, he does not 
rule with the Gospel, or Word of God, but has made a new 
law and a Koran, viz., his decretals, and enforces them with 
the ban, as the Turk enforces his Koran with the sword ; he 
even calls the ban his spiritual sword, though only the Word 
of God is that and should be called that (Ephesians vi). 
Nevertheless, he uses the temporal sword also, when he can, 
or, at least, calls upon it, and urges and stirs up others to 
use it. And I am confident that if the pope could use the 
temporal sword as mightily as the Turk, he would perhaps 
lack the will to do so even less than the Turk and, indeed, 
they have often tried it. 

God visits them with the same plague, too, and smites 
them with blindness, so that it happens to them as St. Paul 
Rom. says, in Romans i, about the shameful vice of the dumb sins, 
1:28 that God gives them up to a perverse mind because they per- 
vert the Word of God. So blind and senseless are both 
pope and Turk that both of them commit the dumb sins 
shamelessly, as an honorable and praiseworthy thing. Since 
they think lightly of marriage, it serves them right that there 
are dog-marriages (and would to God they were dog-mar- 
riages), nay, "Italian marriages" and "Florentine brides" 1 
among them; and they think these things good; for I hear 

* Current names for unnatural vices. 

On War Against the Turk 117 

one horrible thing after another about what an open and 
glorious Sodom Turkey is, and everybody who has looked 
around a little in Rome and Italy knows very well how God 
there revenges and punishes the prohibition of marriage, so 
that Sodom and Gomorrah, which God overwhelmed in days 
of old with fire and brimstone, must seem a mere jest com- 
pared with these abominations. On this one account, there- 
fore, I would regret the rule of the Turk; nay, it would be 
intolerable in Germany. 

"What are we to do, then? Are we to fight against the 
pope, as well as the Turk, since the one is as godly as the 
other?" Answer: Treat the one like the other and no one is 
wronged ; like sin should receive like punishment. I mean that 
this way. If the pope and his followers were to attack the 
empire with the sword, as the Turk does, he should receive 
the same treatment as the Turk ; and this is what was done to 
him by the army of Emperor Charles before Pavia. 1 For 
there stands God's verdict, "He that takes the sword shall Matt, 
perish by the sword." I do not advise that men go to war 26:52 
with the Turk or the pope because of his false belief or evil 
life, but because of the murder and destruction which he 
does. But the best thing about the papacy is that it has not 
yet the sword, as the Turk has ; otherwise it would surely un- 
dertake to bring the whole world into subjection, though it 
would accomplish no more than to bring it to faith in the 
pope's Koran, the decretals. For he pays as little heed as 
the Turk to the Gospel, or Christian faith, and knows it as 
little, though with fasts, which he himself does not keep, he 
makes a great pretense of Turkish sanctity ; thus they deserve 
the reputation of being like the Turk, though they are 
against Christ. 

Against, the papacy, however, because of its errors and 
wicked ways, the first man, Sir Christian, 3 has been aroused, 
and he attacks it boldly with prayer and the Word of God ; 
and he has wounded it, too, so that they feel it and rage. 
But no raging helps ; the axe is laid to the tree and the tree 

1 See above, p. 87. 

a C above, p. 58, 101, 110. 

118 On War Against the Turk 

must be uprooted, unless it bears different fruit. I see 
clearly that they have no notion of reforming, but the farther 
things go, the more stubborn they become and want to butt 
their way through, and boast, "All or nothing, bishop or 
drudge ! m I consider them so godly that, unless they reform 
or turn from their shameful ways, both they themselves and 
the whole world admit that it is not to be endured, and that 
they should betake themselves to their comrade and brother, 
the holy Turk. Ah well ! May our heavenly Father quickly 
hear their own prayer and grant that, as they say, they may 
be "all or nothing, bishop or drudge." Amen! They will 
have it so. Amen! So let it be, let it come true, as God 

But you say further: "How can the Emperor Charles 
pen>r m " fight against the Turk in these days, when he has against 
Goto him such hindrances and such treachery from kings, princes, 
War? the Venetians, indeed from almost everybody?" Answer: 
What a man cannot lift, he must let lie. If we can do no 
more, we must let our Lord Jesus Christ counsel and aid us, 
by His coming, which cannot be far off. a For the world has 
come to its end ; the Roman Empire is almost gone and torn 
to bits; it stands as the kingdom of the Jews stood when 
Christ's birth was near; the Jews had scarcely anything of 
their kingdom, Herod was the token of farewell. And so, 
I think, now that the Roman Empire is almost gone, Christ's 
coming is at the door, and the Turk is the Empire's token of 
farewell, a parting gift to the Roman Empire; and just as 
Herod and the Jews hated each other, though both made 
common cause against Christ, so Turk and papacy hate each 
other, but make common cause against Christ and His 

Nevertheless, what the emperor can do for his subjects 
against the Turk, that he should do, so that even though he 
catmot entirely prevent the abomination, he may yet try to 
protect and rescue his subjects by checking the Turk and 
liolding Mm off. To this protection the emperor should be 

*Dren adder drttber, Bissctoff order Bader. 

* Cf . SMITH and JACOBS, Lather's Correspondence H, 516 f. 

On War Against the Turk 119 

moved not only by his bounden duty, his office, and the com- 
mand of God, nor only by the unchristian and vile govern- 
ment that the Turk brings in, as has been said above, but 
also by the misery and wretchedness that comes to his sub- 
jects. They know better than I, beyond all doubt, how 
cruelly the Turk treats those whom he carries away captive. 
He treats them like cattle, dragging, towing, driving those 
that can go along, and killing out of hand those that cannot 
go, whether they are young or old. 

All this and the like more ought to move all the princes, 
and the whole empire, to forget their own cases and conten- . 
tions, or let them rest for a while, and unite, in all earnest, 
to help the wretched; so that things may not go as they went 
with Constantinople and Greece. They quarreled with one 
another and looked after their own affairs, until the Turk 
overwhelmed both of them together, as he has already come 
very near doing to us in a similar case. But if this is not to 
be, and our unrepentant life makes us unworthy of any grace 
or counsel or support, we must put up with it and suffer 
under the devil; but that does not excuse those who could 
help and do not. 

I wish it to be clearly understood, however, by what I 
have said, that it was not for nothing that I called Emperor 
Charles the man who ought to go to war against the Turk. 
As for other kings, princes, and rulers who despise Emperor 
Charles, or are not his subjects, or are not obedient, I leave 
them to take their own chances. They shall do nothing by 
my advice or admonition ; what I have written here has been 
for Emperor Charles and his subjects; the others do not 
concern me. For I well know the pride of some kings and 
princes who would be gkd if not Emperor Charles, but they, 
were to be the heroes and masters to win honor against the 
Turk. I grant thean the honor, But if they are beaten in 
trying to get it, it will be their own fault Why do they not 
conduct themselves humbly toward the true head and the 
regularly appointed ruler. The rebellion among the peasants 
has been punished, but if the rebellion among the princes and 

120 On War Against the Turk 

lords were also to be punished, I believe that there would be 
very few princes and lords left. God grant that it may not 
be the Turk who inflicts the punishment ! Amen. 

Finally, I would have it understood as my kind and faith- 
ful advice that, if it comes to the point of war against the 
?*. Turk, we shall arm and prepare, and not hold the Turk too 
a For- cheap, acting as we Germans usually do, and coming on the 
midaWe field with twenty or thirty thousand men. And even though 
nemy a success is granted us and we win a victory, we have no 
staying-power, but sit down again and carouse until another 
necessity arises. To be sure, I am not qualified to give in- 
struction on this point, and they themselves know, or ought 
to know, more about it than I, nevertheless, when I see 
people acting so childishly, I must think either that the 
princes and our Germans do not know or believe the strength 
and power of the Turk, or have no serious purpose to fight 
against the Turk, but just as the pope has robbed Germany 
of money under the pretence of the Turkish war and by 
indulgences, 1 so they, too, following the pope's example, 
would swindle us out of money. 

My advice, therefore, is not to set the armed preparation 
so low and not to offer our poor Germans to slaughter. If 
we are not going to make an adequate, honest resistance that 
will have some staying-power, it were far better not to begin 
a war, but to give up lands and people to the Turk in time, 
without useless bloodshed, rather than have him win anyhow 
in an easy battle and with shameful bloodshed, as happened 
in Hungary with King Lewis. 3 Fighting against the Turk 
is not like fighting against the King of France, or the Vene- 
tians, or the pope; he is a different kind of warrior; he has 
people and money in abundance ; he beat the Sultan twice in 
succession, 3 and that took people. Why, dear sir, his people 

1 ie. Crusading-indulgences. 

3 At the bottle of Mohacs* Aug. 29, 1526, Lewis of Hungary commanded an 
army of not more than 30,000 against a Turkish force of more than 100,000. It 
is estimated that the Hungarians lost 20,000 men, and the king himself was 
drowned while retreating. Cf. Cambridge Modern History, I, 96 f. 

At Aleppo (1516) and Reydaniya (1517). These two victories gave the 
Ottoman Turks complete supremacy in the Mofcammedan world. Cf. Cam- 
Modern Hittory, I, 90 f. 

On War Against die Turk 121 

are under arms all the time, so that he can quickly bring to- 
gether three or four hundred thousand men; if we were to 
cut off a hundred thousand, he would soon be back again 
with as many men as before. He has staying-power. 

There is, therefore, nothing at all in trying to meet him 
with fifty or sixty thousand men unless we have an equal or 
a greater number in reserve. Only count up his lands, dear 
sir. He has Greece, Asia, Syria, Egypt, Arabia, etc., that is, 
he has so many lands that if Spain, France, England, Ger- 
many, Italy, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, and Denmark were 
all counted together, they would not equal the land he has. 
Besides, he is master of all of them and commands effective 
and ready obedience. And, as has been said, they are con- 
stantly under arms and are exercised in warfare, so that he 
has staying-power, and can deliver two, three, four battles, 
one after another, as he showed against the Sultan. This 
Gog and Magog is a different kind of majesty than our kings 
and princes. 

I say this because I fear that my Germans do not know it 
or believe it, and think, perhaps, that they are strong enough 
by themselves, and take the Turk for such a lord as the 
king of France, whom they would easily withstand. But I 
shall be without blame, and shall not have laden my tongue 
and pen with blood, if a king measures himself with the Turk 
all alone, for it is tempting God when any one sets out with 
a smaller force against a stronger king, as Christ also shows Lukc 
in the Gospel of Luke, especially since our princes are not i*: 
the kind of people for whom a divine miracle is to be ex- 
pected. The king of Bohemia 1 is now a mighty prince, but 
God forbid that he match himself all alone against the Turk ! 
Let him have Emperor Charles as his captain and all tihe 
emperor's power behind him. But then, if everyone will not 
believe this, let him learn by his own experience ! I know 
what kind of might the Turk's might is, unless the historians 
and geographers lie, and daily experience, too; they do not, 
that I know. 

1 Ferdinand o*f Austria was elected king of Bohemia in 1526. 

122 On War Against the Turk 

I do not say this in order to scare off the kings from war 
against the Turk, but as an admonition to make wise and 
serious preparation, and not to go at this matter in so child- 
ish and sleepy a way, for I would like, if possible, to prevent 
useless bloodshed and lost wars. It would be serious prepa- 
ration, if our princes were to wind their own affairs in a ball 
and put their heads and hearts, hands and feet, together, and 
make one body out of the great crowd from which one could 
make another army, if one battle were lost, and not, as here- 
tofore, let single kings and princes set upon him yesterday 
the king of Hungary, tomorrow the king of Bohemia, day 
after tomorrow the king of Poland until the Turk devours 
them one after another and nothing is accomplished by it, 
except that our people are betrayed and slaughtered and 
blood is shed needlessly. 

For if our kings and princes were to agree, and stand by 
one another and help one another, and the Christian man 1 
were to pray for them, I should be undismayed and of good 
hope; the Turk would leave his raging and find in Emperor 
Charles a man who was his equal. Failing that, if things 
are to go as they now go, and no one is in agreement with 
another or loyal to another, and everyone wants to be his 
own man and takes the field with a beggarly array, I must let 
it go at that. Of course I will gladly help pray, but it will 
be a weak prayer, for I can have little faith that it will be 
heard, because of the childish, presumptuous, and short- 
sighted way in which such great enterprises are undertaken, 
knowing that it is tempting God and that He can have no 
pleasure in it. 

What do our dear lords do ? They take it for a mere jest. 
It is a fact that the Turk is at our throat, and even if he does 
not will to march against us this year, yet he is there, armed 
and ready any hour to attack us, when he will, and yet our 
princes discuss, meanwhile, how they can harass Luther and 
the Gospel. It is the Turk ! Against it force must be used ! 
It must be put out ! That is what they are doing right now at 

*See above, p. 101, 110. 

On War Against the Turk 123 

Speyer, 1 making the greatest ado about the eating of meat 
and fish, and foolishness like that. God give you honor," 
you faithless heads of your poor people! What devil bids 
you occupy yourselves so violently with spiritual things, 
which are not committed to you, and be so lax and slothful in 
dealing with things that God has committed to you and that 
concern you and your poor people, now in the greatest -and 
most pressing need, and thus be only hindering all those 
whose intentions are good and who would gladly do their 
part ? Yes, go on singing and hearing the Mass of the Holy 
Spirit ! He has great pleasure in it and will be very gracious 
to you disobedient, refractory fellows, because you let those 
things alone. that he has committed to you, and work at what 
he has forbidden you ! Yes, the Evil Spirit may hear you ! 

With this I have cleared my conscience. This book shall 
be my witness concerning the measure and the manner in 
which I advise war against the Turk. If any will proceed 
otherwise, let him proceed, win or lose, I shall not enjoy his 
victory and not pay for his defeat, but shall be innocent of 
all the blood that will be shed in vain. I know that this book 
will not make the Turk a gracious lord to me, if it comes 
before him ; nevertheless, I have wished to tell my Germans 
the truth, so far as I know it, and give faithful counsel and 
service to the grateful and the ungrateful alike. If it helps, 
it helps ; if it helps not, then may our dear Lord Jesus Christ 
help, and come down from heaven with the Last Judgment, 
and smite both Turk and pope to the earth, together with 
all tyrants and all the godless, and deliver us from all sins 
and from all evil. Amen. 

1 The Diet of Speyer was in session when this work was published. 
a The implication is "For I cannot." 

(Von den Konziliis und Kirchen) 



The work On the Councils and the Churches is inti- 
mately related to the Smalcald Articles. Both of these writ- 
ings originated as a result of the proposal to hold a general council 
of the Church to settle the questions that Protestantism had raised. 

As early as 1520, Luther had urged the assembly of a general 
council for the reformation of the Church and had declared that if the 
pope were unwilling to call such a council, the secular authorities 
should do so. His Open Letter to the Christian No- 
bility 1 is an argument for the calling of a council and a suggested 
program for its action. In 1524 the project was taken up by the 
German diet, then meeting at Nuremberg. It demanded that the pope 
call "a general, free, and universal council of Christendom," to be 
held as quickly as possible " at a suitable place in Germany, "* The 
purpose of the council was to settle the difficulties arising out of the 
Lutheran movement and, at the same time, to remove the abuses 
complained of in the Gravamina of the German Nation, 
presented at Worms and reiterated at Nuremberg. From that time 
forward the plan was never entirely dropped. It appears in the pro- 
ceedings of one diet after another. It was espoused by the emperor 
and pressed by him as a necessary means for restoring peace within 
the Church and remedying the evils that were apparent in the Church's 

The proposal was not kindly received at Rome. The memory of the 
reform-councils of the fifteenth century and of what they had done 
to the papacy was too fresh in men's minds. Clement VII (1523-34) 
opposed it with all the devious arts of Medicean diplomacy and during 
his lifetime, nothing was done toward the assembling of a council. His 
successor, Paul III (1534-49), was unable to resist the emperor's 
demand, which was becoming more insistent. At the time of his ac- 
cession, he publicly declared his intention to call a council. It did 
not actually assemble until 1545, at Trent, but for ten years before 
that, talk of the council was in the air and desultory preparations were 
being made for it. 

The first call for the council was issued in June, 1536. It was ap- 
pointed to meet in Mantua in May, 1537. At the same time, the pope 
appointed a commission of cardinals to report on conditions in the 
Roman Church and propose measures of reform.* 

This action by the pope compelled Luther and his associates to 
define their position toward the council. As late as 1530, in the 
Preface to the Augsburg Confession * they had declared their willing- 

1 In tHis edition, Vol. II, pp. 61 ff. 

9 WREDE, Deutsche Reichstagsakten, II, 661ff,; Kna>, Docu- 
ments of the Continental Reformation, No. 69. 

3 The report of the commission (Consilium de emendanda eccle- 
sia) was published in 1538. The text is found most conveniently in KIDD, 
p . c i t . * pp. 307 ff. Luther republilshed it, in German translation, with 
introduction and notes (Weimar E d . , L, 288 ff.) 

4 H. E. JACOBS, BookofConcord,pp. 35 1 

Vol. V 9. (127) 

128 Introduction 

ness to "make appearance and defend their cause'* before such a 
council, and the Peace of Nuremberg, in 1532, between the imperial 
authorities and the Smalcald League, had been arranged to run until 
a council should be held. 1 As the situation was developing, however, 
it was becoming more and more apparent that in such a council the 
Protestant cause would not have a real hearing, and that the kind of 
reformation which Luther and his followers desired would not be 
accomplished by it 

More than a year before the call for the council went out, Paul 
III had begun to sound out the German Protestants. In February, 
1535, he had commissioned Paul Vergerius, 2 papal nuncio to Germany, 
to seek assurance of their participation. His replies were unsatisfac- 
tory and in December the Smalcald League, representing the Lu- 
theran princes and cities, laid down four conditions for their entrance 
into the council. It must be a f^ ^HT^ 1 , + -a papal ronnril ; ^the 
Prptestgjits must be invited to it as full ffartir,ipants r riot gLgJigrgrirs > 

~ must be baged on the authority of the Scriptures, not of 

"ble/ The! 

tie pope; it must be held m Germany, if at all possible. These condi- 
tions were entirely unacceptable at Rome. 

It was in these circumstances that the Smalcald Articles* 
were prepared. Luther was their author, but they t present the view 
of Christian truth and of the state of the Church which his party held 
when the council was imminent. They were composed in December, 
1536, and signed by Jonas, Cruciger, Bugenhagen, Amsdorf, Melanch- 
thon, John Agricola, and Spalatin. They were never actually adopted 
by the Smalcald League, but were published by Luther in 1538. 

Meanwhile, the project for a council had run into other difficulties, 
chiefly created by the hostility between Charles V and the King of 
France. In April, 1537, one month before the council was to have 
met, the date was postponed until November 1, 1537. Later it was 
postponed still farther, until May 1, 1538, and the meeting-place was 
changed from Mantua to Vicenza, but on that date the emperor 
and the French king were at war and the meeting was impossible. 
Finally (May 21, 1539), the council was indefinitely postponed. 

It was during this time of uncertainty about the holding of the 
council and about the things that such a council would be likely to 
do, that the treatise On the Counci 1 s and the Churches 
was -written. The composition may have been begun as early as 
September, 1538.* It was continued, at intervals, during the follow- 
ing months, and completed in March, 1539 ." It may have been in 
print as early as May of that year, but was certainly published before 
August. It was inevitable that it should have many points of contact 
with the Smalcald Articles, to which, indeed, it is the 
best and most authoritative commentary. It is also closely connected 
with a whole group of minor writings of the same period. 

This treatise deserves a place in any edition of Luther's selected 
works. It stands in this edition as the representative work of the 
old Luther. In it he appears as the disillusioned reformer. All the 

1 KIDD, op. c i t . p. 303. 

a Cf. BENRATH in Realencyk. xx, 546 ff. 

8 JACOBS, Book of Concord, pp. 307-38. 

*SeeWeimarEd.,p. 501. 

'ibid. p. 505. 

Introduction 129 

hopes for a reformation of the Church, such as he had envisioned in 
1520, have disappeared. The thing is not going to come to pass. 
Nevertheless, the fight for a pure Church is not to be given up. The 
disillusioned reformer is not the discouraged reformer. His courage 
is as high, his position just as uncompromising, as in the days when 
he hoped that the Roman church could be reformed. Nevertheless, 
there is a certain crabbedness and testiness in this writing that is not 
found in the best of his earlier books and tracts, though in violence 
of expression it is surpassed by some of his still later works. It is 
the work of a man who has lived for years with illness as a constant 

The work is interesting as showing the extent of Luther's knowl- 
edge of the Church's past. It contains repeated references to his 
sources of knowledge. They are Eusebius' Ecclesiastical 
History, which he used in Rufinus* Latin translation, with that 
author's supplements; Cassiodorus' Historia tripartita, 
which consisted of translated excerpts from the histories of Theodoret, 
Socrates, and Sozomen; and the Canon Law. To these were added 
the then newly published, two-volume work of Peter Crabbe, issued 
in 1538 _ under tita title Concilia omni a. It was the most com- 
prehensive collection of material bearing upon the councils to which 
he had access, and he quotes it frequently. He also cites, though 
with much criticism, Platina's Lives of the Popes (His- 
toriadevitispontificum, written between 1471 and 1481), 

The work falls into three parts. Part I argues the thesis that 
the Church cannot be reformed according to the councils and the 
fathers. Part II discusses the functions of councils, what they can 
and what they cannot do. The discussion takes a broad scope. 
Luther takes up the first four ecumenical councils, Nicaea (325), 
Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451), and 
the Council of Jerusalem m apostolic days. He examines the records 
of their proceedings with a view to determining what they actually 
did, and what of their acts had purely temporary and what had perma- 
nent _ significance. He concludes that their powers are limited to de- 
fending the faith of the Church against new errors, and that they have 
no authority to set up new articles of faith. Incidentally he discusses 
the heresies that caused the holding of the councils, and runs occa- 
sionally into long digressions on matters indirectly connected with 
the main issues. Apart from the revelation of his historical knowledge 
and the keenness of his historical criticism, this section has deep 
interest as an exposition of Luther's own Christology. 

Part III deals with the question, "What is the Church and what 
are the marks by which it is known? " This was not a new subject 
for Luther. He had discussed it as early as 1519, and his answer to 
the question is substantially the same as that which he had given 
twenty years before, in his debate with John Eck at Leipzig and in 
his tract, The Papacy at Rome. 1 Here, however, Luther 
treats the "marks" of the Church in a broader way than in any of 
his other writings. Instead of the three marks usually named--4:he 
preached Word and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Sup- 

*In this edition, Vol. I, pp. 337 ff. 

130 Introduction 

per he enumerates seven, adding the public forgiveness of sins ("the 
office of the keys "), the office of the ministry, public worship and per- 
secution. It is this third part of the work that has the greatest 
permanent significance. 

The text of the treatise is found in Weimar Ed. L, 509-653; 
Erlangen Ed. 1 XXV, 219-338; Erlangen Ed., a XXV, 278- 
448; Berlin Ed., II, 1-172; St. Louis Ed., XVI, 1247 ff. 
The translation is from the text of Weimar Ed. 

Literature. The most valuable commentaries on this treatise 
are the Introduction to it and to the Smalcald Articles in Weimar 
Ed. L, 160 if, 488ff. KOSTLIH-KAWERAU, Luther, II, 404ff and 
KOSTLIN, Luther's Theology (English translation by HAY) . 
A summary of the argument in MACKINNON, Luther, IV, (1930), 

On special points, SCHAEFER, L. als Kirchen historiker, 
is invaluable. 



I have often joined in the" laughter when some one offered 
the dogs a bit of bread on the point of a knife and when 
they snapped at it, rapped them on the muzzle with the 
handle, so that the poor dogs not only lost the bread, but 
had the pain beside. It was a good joke, but I never thought, 
at that time, that the devil would have that kind of a joke 
on us men and take us for such poor dogs, until I found 
out how the most holy father, the pope, plays this same kind 
of a dog's joke on Christendom in his bulls and books and 
daily practices; but, Lord God, with what loss to men's 
souls and what mockery of the divine Majesty! That is 
what he is doing now with the council. 1 The whole world 
has cried for and waited for it; the good emperor and the 
whole empire have been working for it for about twenty 
years ; a and the pope has always held out false hopes, and 
held off, and constantly offered it to the emperor, like a bit 
of bread to a dog, until he saw his time ; then he raps him on 
the muzzle, and mocks him, as though the emperor were his 
fool and jumping-jack. 8 

For he now issues the third call for the council* but 
before doing it, he sends his apostles into all lands and swears 
king's and princes to hold fast the pope's doctrine. The 
bishops and their clergy are in agreement with this; they 
will yield nothing at all and will allow nothing to be reformed. 
Thus the council is closed before it begins ; we are to have 
no reforms, but everything is to keep on as it has been up 
to this time. Is not that a splendid council ? It has not yet 

1 See Introduction. 

a Luther had first demanded a Council, before which his case could be 
heard* in 1518. Since 1523 the emperor and the diets had been urging it. 
See Introduction. 

3 GauckelmenHn, a child ren's-toy. 

4 The Council had been called to meet in Mantua,. May 23, 1537, then post- 
poned until November 1st, and then called to meet at Vicenza, May 1, 153& 


132 On the Councils and the Churches 

met, but it has already done what it was to do, if it were to 
begin. That is rapping the emperor on the muzzle ; nay, it 
is overtaking the Holy Ghost and far outstripping Him, I 
have feared, however, and have often written it and said 
it, that they would not and could not hold a council unless 
they first captured the emperor, the kings, and the princes, 
and had them in their own hands, so that they might be 
altogether free to make what decrees they please, in order 
to strengthen their tyranny and oppress Christendom with 
far heavier burdens than it has ever had to bear before. 

In God's name, if you lords, emperor, kings, princes, 
are so fond of having such worthless, damnable people tram- 
ple on your faces and rap you on the muzzle, then we 
have to let it be done, and remember that they used to do 
still worse things, when they deposed kings and emperors, 
cursed them, drove them out, betrayed and slew them, and 
played the devil's will with them. History shows this ; and 
they think to do the same thing still. Nevertheless, Christ 
will know how to find His Christendom and maintain it even 
against the gates of hell, though emperor and kings neither 
can nor will do anything toward it. He can spare their help 
more easily than they can spare His help. What did He have 
to do before emperors and kings were born? And what 
would He have to do now, if there were no emperors and 
kings, even though a world full of devils raged against Him? 
He is not unused to sour food, and He can cook food that is 
sourer still ; woe to them that must eat it ! 

But we poor, weak Christians, whom these saints call 
heretics, ought to be glad and happy. We ought joyfully to 
praise and thank God, the Father of all mercy, that He takes 
our part so heartily, and smites our murderers and blood- 
dogs with such Egyptian blindness and Jewish craziness that 
they propose to yield on no point, however small, and prefer 
to let Christendom be destroyed rather than allow the small- 
est of the idolatries (of which they are full) reformed. 
This is their boast; and they fulfill it, too. I say, we should 
he glad ; for this way they make our case better than we had 
ever asked, and their own case worse than they now think. 

On the Councils and the Churches 133 

They know and confess that, on many points, they are 
wrong, and have the Scriptures and God against them be- 
sides; and yet they would force their way through 1 against 
God, and knowingly defend wrong as right. In this confi- 
dence, a poor Christian ought to go to the Sacrament, even 
without confession, and risk a hundred necks, if he had them, 
when he sees so plainly that God reigns on our side, and the 
devil on theirs. 

We have now seen the final conclusion of the future 
Council at Vicenza 2 and the strict verdict of the last council, 
(or that which must be regarded as such) . It is to the effect Council 
that all the world must despair of a reformation of the 
Church. The matter cannot be given a hearing, but they 
would rather (as they boast) allow Christendom to be de- church 
stroyed; in other words, they would rather have the devil 
himself as god and lord, than have Christ and lay aside even 
a little of their idolatry. Not satisfied with that, they would 
compel us poor Christians, with the sword, to join knowingly 
in their worship of the devil and blasphemy of Christ. Such 
a defiance no history records and no age has known. Other 
tyrants have the poor honor of crucifying the Lord o 
Majesty unknowingly, as do the Turks, heathen, and Jews; 
but here are men who under Christ's name, and as Chris- 
tians, nay, as the highest of Christians, puff themselves up 
and arm themselves against Christ, and say, "We know 
that Christ's words and deeds are against us ; nevertheless, we 
will not endure His Word or yield to it, but He must yield 
to us and endure our idolatry ; and yet we will be Christians, 
and be known as such." 

Thus the pope, with his followers, refuses to hold a council 
and will neither reform the Church nor contribute advice or 
assistance to a reformation, but would defend his tyranny 
by force, and let the Church be destroyed. Therefore we, 
whom the pope has so sadly deserted, can do nothing else 
than go elsewhere for advice and help, and begin by seeking 
and praying a reformation from our Lord Christ. For be- 
cause of these abandoned tyrants, who compel us to despair 

*Mit dem kopff hindurch. 
* See Introduction. 

134 On the Councils and the Churches 

of a council and a reformation, we must not despair of 
Christ, or leave the Church without advice or help; but we 
must do what we can, and let diem go to the devil, as they 

By this they loudly testify against themselves that they 
are true antichrists and autocatacrites 1 who condemn 
themselves and obstinately desire to be condemned. Thus 
they exclude themselves from the Church, and openly pro- 
claim that they are, and will continue to be, the Church's 
worst enemies. For he who says that he would rather that 
the Church should be destroyed than that he should let him- 
self be improved, or should yield on any point, confesses 
thereby that he is not only no Christian and does not want to 
be in the Church (which he would allow to be destroyed, in 
order that he might remain, and not be destroyed with the 
Church) , but also that he will do what he can for the destruc- 
tion of the Church. They offer terrible proof of this, not 
only in such words as these, but also in their deeds, letting so 
many hundred parishes go to wrack, and churches go to ruin, 
without shepherds, sermons, and sacraments. 

In ancient days the bishops and, indeed, any Christian (as 
today), let themselves be tortured, and went to death with 
thankfulness and joy for their dear Church, and Christ went 
to death for His Church, in order that it might continue and 
be preserved. But the pope and his followers now declare 
that the Church must go to death for them, so that they may 
continue in their tyranny, idolatry, knavery, and all rascality. 
What think you of these fellows? They would remain; the 
Church shall be destroyed. What are we going to do about 
it? But if the Church is to be destroyed, then Christ must 
first be destroyed; for it is built on Him, as on a rock, 
against the gates of hell And if Christ is to be destroyed, 
God Himself must first be destroyed; for it is He who laid 
this rock and foundation. Now who could guess that these 
lords had such great power that the Church and Christ and 
God Himself must so easily go down before their threats ? 
They must be far, far mightier than the gates of hell and all 

*Le,, S*Jf-ctideintted men. 

On the Councils and the Churches 135 

the devils, for the Church has remained, and must remain, 
in spite of them. 

They cry out, I say, that they will not be the Church, or 
in the Church, but will be the Church's worst enemies and 
help destroy it. Nevertheless they have plagued us and 
nagged us with the word, "Church, Church." They have 
shouted and spit it out, without measure and without end, 
that they are to be considered the Church, and they have 
made us out heretics and cursed us and slain us, because we 
would not listen to them as though they were the Church. 
Now, I verily think, we are honorably and .mightily absolved, 
and that they will not and cannot call us heretics any more, 
since they do not want to be lauded as the Church, but, as 
enemies of the Church, want it to go to destruction, and even 
to help suppress it. For to be the Church and, at the same 
time, to let the Church be destroyed rather than be destroyed 
themselves, or have a hair's-breadth of themselves destroyed, 
those two things do not fit That settles it Ex ore 
tuo te judico, serve nequam. 1 

If the Last Day were not close at hand it would be small 
wonder if heaven and earth were to fall at such blasphemy. 
The fact that God can tolerate such things as this is a sign 
that the Day is not far off. And yet they laugh at that, un- 
mindful that they have made God out to be blind, crazy, mad, 
and foolish, and they think that their doings are wise and 
manly. I, too, would be as care-free as they are, if I re- 
garded only their raging; but the wrath of God, which is 
shown upon them, terrifies me sorely, and it is high time that 
we all wept and prayed earnestly, as Christ did over Jerusa- Luke 
lem, when He bade the women weep not for Him, but for 23:2S 
themselves and their children. For they do not believe that 
the time of their visitation is near, and they will not believe 
it, even though they see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, touch it, 
and feel it. 

Now how are we to attack this thing? The pope will 
neither give us a true council nor permit a reformation, but 
he and his will let the Church be destroyed. Thus he has 

x '*Out of thine own mouth I judge thee, wicked servant/' 

136 On the Councils and the Churches 

turned himself out of the Church so that he may remain, 
and not be destroyed in the Church or with it. He is out ; he 
has bidden the Church good-bye. How, I say, are we to 
attack this thing ? How are we to proceed, since we must do 
It without the pope? For we are the Church, or in the 
Church, which the papists would let go to destruction in 
order that they may remain. But we, too, would like to 
remain and do not intend to go down so miserably, with our 
Lord Christ and His Father, the God of us all, before the 
defiance of the papists. Yet we feel that there is need for 
a council or reformation in the Church, because we see such 
gross abuses that, even if we were oxen and asses, and not 
men or Christians, and could not observe these things with 
eyes or ears, we must, nevertheless, feel them with paws 
and claws, and trip over them. Suppose that we, the transi- 
tory Church, were ourselves to hold a council 1 against the 
abiding lords, without the pope and without their consent, 
and to undertake a reformation which the abiding junkers 
would consider very transitory, but which they would have to 
put up with! 

But we shall now get down to the matter, since we have 
lost our most holy head, the pope, and will have to take such 
counsel with ourselves as our Lord may grant us. 

1 John Frederick of Saxony had suggested this. Cf. W e i m a r E d . , L, 
514, n. a. 


The Church cannot be reformed in ac- 
cordance with the Fathers and the Coun- 

Some years ago many of the papists occupied themselves 
with the councils and the fathers and at last brought all the 
councils together in one book. 1 This work gave me no small 
pleasure, because I had not previously seen the councils side Fope 
by side. And there are now among them, I believe, some win Not 
good, pious people who would like to see the Church r 
formed according to the standard of these councils and 
fathers. They are moved to this by the fact that the present 
state of the Church, under the papacy, disagrees shamefully 
with the ways of the councils and fathers. In this case, 
however, their good intentions are quite in vain ; for, beyond 
doubt, it is their idea that the pope and his people would, or 
would have to, include themselves in such a reformation. 
But that is a vain idea, for there stands the pope, with his 
abiding lords, 3 and defies, them, as he defies us, saying that 
they would rather let the Church perish than yield a single 
point ; i.e., they would rather let councils and fathers perish 
than yield to them in anything. For if the councils and 
fathers were to be followed, God help us ! what would be- 
come of the pope and the present bishops? In truth, they 
would have to become the perishable Church, instead of 
being abiding lords. 

I will say nothing about the ancient days, which we may 
call the thousand or fourteen hundred years after the birth 
of Christ. It is not more than a hundred years since the 
pope began the holy practice of giving one priest two livings, 3 
such as canonries or parishes. The theologians at Paris and 

1 There is some doubt concerning the edition to which Luther refers. It 
was probably the two volume collection of Peter Crabbe, published at Cologne 
in 1538, though it may have been the earlier work of Jacob Merlin. Cf. 
Weimar Ed. I/, 502, 514 n., and. SCHABFER, L. als Kirch en his- 
toriker, p, 144. 

3 Cf. above, p. 136. 

*Cf. VoL II, p. 93 ff. 


138 On the Councils and the Churches 

their comrades wrote many terrible things about this and 
complained of it. I am not yet sixty years old, and yet I 
know that within my memory the custom has grown up that 
a bishop should have more than one endowment. Mean- 
while, however, the pope has devoured everything, made a 
robbery of the annates and everything else, and portions 
out the bishoprics by threes, the abbeys and endowed posi- 
tions by tens. 1 How can he spue all this up again and let his 
chancelry be torn apart, for the sake of the fathers and 
councils? Yes, you say, this is an abuse; well, then, take 
your ancient councils and fathers and reform it all, for things 
were not like this a hundred years ago or sixty years ago, 
before you were born. 

Now of what use is your reformation according to the 
fathers and councils? You hear that the pope and the 
bishops will not endure it ; and if they could not endure the 
condition of the Church fifty years ago, when you and I 
were children, how would they or could they endure it, if we 
wanted to reform it by restoring the condition of the Church 
of six hundred, or a thousand, or fourteen hundred years 
ago. This proposal is simply impossible, because the pope 
is in possession, and wants to be unref ormed. Therefore we 
must let both councils and fathers and everything that we 
can say or think, be useless in these matters ; for the pope is 
above councils, above fathers, above kings, above God, above 
angels. Let us see you bring him down and make the fathers 
and councils his masters 1 If you do that, I will agree with 
you and stand by you ; but so long as it does not happen, what 
Is the use of talking or writing so much about councils or 
fathers? There is no one who takes the matter up. If the 
pope, with his imperishable lords, cardinals and bishops, is 
unwilling to go along into the reformation and be put, with 
us, under the councils and fathers, then a council is of no 
nse and then no reformation is to be hoped from him ; for 
he dashes it all to the ground and tells us to shut up. 
^ But suppose they ask that we allow ourselves to be re- 

1 A%echt of Mainz held two archbishoprics and a bishopric at one and the 
same time. 

On the Councils and the Churches 139 

formed, with them, according to the councils and fathers, and 
so help the Church, even though the pope and his people 
would neither do it nor suffer it! What then? To this I 
give a double answer. Either they are bitter, malicious, and 
bad, and do not mean it well ; or else they are good-hearted 
and mean it well, so far as in them lies. 

To the former it should be said that they ought first to take 
themselves by the nose and pull the beam out of their own 
eye. Let them, with the pope and cardinals or without the 
pope and cardinals, grow fond of the councils and fathers 
and hold to them. When that happens, then we, following 
their holy example, will straightway be there, and will become 
better than they are themselves. For, God be praised and 
thanked ! we are not such abandoned people that we would 
let the Church perish rather than yield, even in great matters, 
so long as they are not against God. On the contrary, so 
far as our knowledge and ability go, we are ready to perish 
utterly, 1 rather than that misfortune or injury should befall 
the Church. 

But if they themselves pay no heed to the fathers and 
councils, and yet would force us under them, that is too raw ; 
and we must say, Medice cura te ipsum, 3 and, Ltlke 
with Christ, "They lay on people's necks intolerable burdens, 4:23 
which they themselves will not touch with one finger." That Matt ' 
does no good, and we have no small reason for refusal, espe- 
cially since they ascribe such great sanctity to the fathers and 
the councils. We do not keep them; and neither do they, 
except in words and on paper, when they show it to us ; for 
we confess, and must confess, that we are right poor, weak 
Christians, and that in many things. 

For one thing, we have so much to do, day and night, 
with reading, thinking, writing, teaching, exhorting, encour- 
aging both ourselves and others, that, indeed, no time is left 
us even to think whether there ever were councils or fathers, 
to say nothing of concerning ourselves with such high mat- 
ters as tonsures, chasubles, long robes, etc., and their high 

1 ,Bis das weder taut noch h a r da 
a "Pfcywcian, heal * 

140 On the Councils and the Churches 

sanctity. If they have risen so high and become so altogether 
angelic and so rich in faith, that the devil has to let them 
alone, and can start no errors among them and terrify no 
weak consciences ; we weak Christians have not attained to 
that state, and we fear that we never shall attain to it on 
earth. Therefore they really ought to be gracious and merci- 
ful, and not condemn us because we cannot yet equal them 
in holiness. For if we were to leave the work that we have 
in matters of faith and, weak as we are, to emulate their 
strong holiness in dress and foods, we might give up our 
weak holiness and not attain their high, strong holiness, and 
so sit down between two chairs. 

But if they will not be gracious and merciful to us, we 
must let them be angels and dance in Paradise among the 
flowers, as men who have long since abolished faith and, in 
their heavenly holiness, have no temptation from devil, flesh, 
or world. But we must toil and sweat in slime and mud; 
poor fibelists 1 and beginners in faith that we are, we cannot 
be such high doctors and magisters in faith. If we had as 
much faith as they think that they have, we could bear ton- 
sures, chasubles, councils and fathers more easily than they 
do ; but since they do not bear them at all, they bear them 
easily (for to bear nothing is to have no heavy burden), and 
boast, the while, that we are not willing to bear them. 

Likewise we poor Christians have enough to do to keep 

Reform God's commandments, so much, indeed, that we cannot give 

by Keep- attention to the other high works, which they boast of as 

jnffthe spiritual, conciliar, and patristic. For we drive and practice 

jMnti* k ot k ourselves and our followers, with the greatest diligence, 

meat* to love God above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves, 

to be humble and patient, merciful and gentle, chaste and 

sober, not covetous or envious, and to keep the rest of God's 

commandments. We should be glad if there were among 

our people no pride, avarice, usury, envy, over-drinking, 

over-eating, adultery, or wantonness; but we succeed so 

poorly and miserably that we can bring only a few of them to 

these good works; the great mass remains what it is and 

1 Pupils who are still learning the alphabet. 

On the Councils and the Churches 141 

grows worse every day. Now figure it out yourself, when 
we are so weak in the doing of these necessary works, com- 
manded by God, how can we leave them and give ourselves 
to the high, strong, unnecessary works of which they tell 
us? If we had performed the divine, little, despicable, or as 
they contemptuously call them, "civil" works, then, God will- 
ing! we would begin to do their spiritual, churchly works 
about meat-eating, dress, holy days, etc. 

But they have an easy task, 1 because they fulfil all God's 
commandments, love God above all things and have no covet- 
ousness or usury, no adulterers or f ornicators, no drinkers or 
drunkards among them, but they do all these little, good, 
divine works so easily that time actually hangs heavy on 
their hands. 3 Therefore it is only right that, over and above 
these "civil" works of ours, they should undertake to do 
stronger or higher works, in obedience to the Church or the 
fathers, since they are far too strong to practice these little 
good works with us ; they have taken a long leap beyond them 
and have got far ahead of us. Nevertheless, in their high 
and strong mercy, and according to the doctrine of St. Paul, 
they ought to have sympathy with us weak, poor Christians, 
and not condemn us or make fun of us because we are learn- 
ing so childishly to toddle along the benches, nay, to creep in 
the mire, and cannot skip and dance, on such light feet and 
legs, over and outside of God's commandments, as they do, 
the strong heroes and giants, who can attack the works that 
are higher and greater than loving God above all things and Roro - 
one's neighbor as oneself; though St. Paul calls this "the 13:1 
fulfilling of the law" in Romans xiii, and so does Christ, in Matt 
Matthew v. 5:19 

If they will not have sympathy with us, however, we ask at 
least a Jittle time until we have completed God j s command- 
ments and the little children's works ; then we will gladly fall 
to upon their high, spiritual, knightly, manly works. For 
what is the use of trying to compel a child to run and work 
like a strong man? Nothing will come of it; the child can- 
not. So we poor, weak Christians, who, in God's 

^S ie ha ben gut thun. Cf. Weimar Ed., L. 518, n. 1. 
* D a s s sie schlechtweg mussig gehen. 

142 On the Councils and the Churches 

ments and His little good works, toddle along the benches 
and sometimes scarcely creep on all fours, nay, even pull 
ourselves along on the ground, so that Christ must dandle us, 
as a mother or a maid dandles a child, we simply cannot 
keep pace with their strong, manly running and doing; and 
God forbid that we should! Therefore we shall keep the 
"churchly and conciliar holiness" (as they call it) until we 
have nothing more to do in God's commandments and good 
works, and not permit this reformation which we cannot 
accomplish. Let that be sufficient answer to the first kind 
of people, those who demand this reformation of us with 
evil intent. 

The second kind 1 are those who hope, though vainly, that 
and such a fine reformation as they imagine might still be accom- 
Fathera p^ed by means of the fathers and councils, even though the 
pope were unwilling or wanted to hinder it. These I answer 
kindly that I regard it an impossible undertaking and do not 
know at all how it can be attacked. For I, too, have read the 
fathers, even before I set myself so stiffly against the pope; 
and I read them more diligently than they who now quote 
them so defiantly and proudly against me ; for I know that 
none of them has attempted, as I have, to lecture in the 
schools upon a book of Holy Scripture and use the writings 
of the fathers in doing so. Let them take up one book of 
Holy Scripture and seek their glosses 3 in the fathers, and 
they will have the same experience that I had, when I took 
up Hebrews with St. Chrysostom's glosses, Titus and Gala- 
tians with the help of St. Jerome's, Genesis with the help of 
St. Ambrose's and Augustine's, the Psalter with all the 
writers that were to be had, and so on. s I have read more 
than they think and driven through all the books, and they 
are too presumptuous when they imagine that I have not read 
the fathers, and would hold up to me as something precious 
the very thing that, twenty years ago, I had to think lightly 
of so that I might read the Scriptures. 

1 See above, p. 139. 
*i.e., Interpretations. 

* On Luther's use of the fathers in hi exegetical works, gee SCHAEFE*, L. 
als Kirchen, hi st<orik fcr, 180 ff. 

On the Councils and the Churches 143 

St. Bernard claims that he learned his wisdom from the 
trees, the oaks and pines, which were his doctores, i.e., 
he got his ideas tinder the trees, out of the Scriptures. 1 He 
says, too, that he regards the holy fathers highly, but does 
not heed everything that they have spoken. He states his 
reason in this parable, he would rather drink from the 
spring than from the rill. So all men who can drink out of 
the spring forget the rill, except as they use the rill to bring 
them to the spring; thus the Scriptures must remain master 
and judge. Or, if we follow the rills too much, they lead us 
too far from the spring, and lose both taste and virtue, until 
at last they flow into the salt sea, and are lost. That is what 
has happened under the papacy. 

Enough of that ! We would show cause why this under- 
taking is impossible. In the first place, it is plain that the 
councils are not only unequal, but even contradictory, and the ^^ 
same is true of the fathers. If we were to try to harmonize ^ 
them, there would be greater disagreement and disputing One 
than there now is, and we should never get out of it any 
more. For since they are unlike and often contradictory, 
our first undertaking would be to see how we could cull out 
the best and let the rest go. Then the trouble would start ! 
One would say, "If we are going to keep them, we must keep 
all or nothing/' Another would say, "You are culling out 
what you like, and leaving what you do not like." Who 
will be the umpire? 

Look at the Dec return, 3 in which Gratian had this 
very purpose, so that the book was even called C o n c o r - 
dantia discordantium: i.e., he wanted to comspare 
the unlike utterances of the fathers and councils, harmonize 
the contradictory ones and cull out the best He succeeded 
like a crab walks ; 8 often let the best go and kept the worst, 
and neither compared nor harmonized them. The jurists 
themselves say it stinks of ambition and avarice, and a canon- 
ist is nothing but a jackass. How much more would that be 

1 Luther had made use of this same reference in a similar connection as early 
as 1519. Cl ENBERS, L 4-39. 

*Tfce Decretum of Gratian, which forms the first part of the Canon 
Law. Cf . Vol. II, p. 67, note 2. 

* Le, Backwards. 

V 10. 

144 On the Councils and the Churches 

the case with us if we actually got to the point of trying to 
make the utterances and opinions of all the fathers and coun- 
cils agree together ! It would be pains and labor lost and bad 
would be made worse, and I shall not involve myself in such 
a dispute ; for I know that there would be no end to it and 
we would have, at last, only an uncertain case, at the cost of 
vain and lost labor and time. They are too green, 1 the young 
paper-smearers, and far too inexperienced. They think that 
what they read and imagine must be so and all the world 
must worship it, though they cannot say the A B C of Scrip- 
ture and are inexpert even in the fathers and councils. They 
shout and sputter, and do not know what they are saying and 

I shall say no more of Gratian. St. Augustine writes to 
Januarius and complains 2 that even in his time, that is, three 
hundred years after Christ (for in this year 1539 he has 
been dead for eleven hundred and two years), 3 the Church 
was already greatly burdened with statements of bishops, on 
one side and another, so that the condition of the Jews was 
more tolerable and endurable; and he sets down these 
clear, plain words, Innumerabilibus servilibus 
oneribus premunt ecclesiam, "They oppress 
the Church with innumerable burdens," while the Jews are 
burdened only by God, not by men. He also says, in the 
same place, that it was Christ's will to impose upon the 
Church only a few, easy ceremonies, viz., baptism and the 
sacrament of the altar, and speaks of no more than these 
two, as everyone can read. The books are to be had and no 
one can accuse me of inventing this. 

But he makes a mighty rent in this, and says, in the same 
place, Hoc genus habet liberas observa- 
tion, e s , i.e., "No one is bound to keep all of these, but 
may omit them without sin." If St. Augustine is not here 
a heretic, then I shall never become a heretic. He throws the 
opinions of so many bishops and so many churches all on a 
heap in the fire and recommends only baptism and the Sac- 

*Zti geel ttmb den Schnabel. 

*Ad inquisitiotLes Januarii, in MIGNE, xxxiii, 221. 

was seven years out of the way. Angnstme died in 430. 

On the Councils and the Churches 145 

rament, believing that Christ did not will to impose any 
further burden on the Church, if, indeed, that can be called 
a burden which is all comfort and grace; as He says, "My 
burden is light and my load is pleasant," i.e., "My burden is 
peace and my load is pleasure." 

Nevertheless, the fine, wise man does this honor to the Th 
great, so-called universal, 1 or chief, councils. He makes a " 
distinction between them and the others, and the statements 
of the bishops, and says that they are to be highly thought 
of, saying, in the same place, that the ordinances of these 
great chief councils ought rightly be kept, and that much 
depends on them and that they have, to use his own words, 
saluberrimam auctor itatem, i.e., it is highly 
profitable to have respect for them. But he never saw one 
of these great councils, nor was he ever in one of them, 
otherwise he would, perhaps, have written differently, or 
more, about them. For in all the books there are not more 
than four of these chief councils that are famous or well- 
known, and so the Roman bishops 3 compare them to the four 
Gospels, as they cry in their decretals. 

The first was the Nicene Council, held at Nicaea, in Asia, 
in the fifteenth year of Constantine the Great, almost thirty- 
five years before Augustine's birth. 3 The second was at 
Constantinople in the third year of the Emperors Gratian and 
Theodosius the Great, 4 who ruled jointly. At that time 
Augustine was still a heathen, and not a Christian, a man 
about twenty-six years old, so that he could not take an In- 
terest in all the matters. The third, at Ephesus, he did not 
live to see;* still less the fourth, at Chalcedon. 6 All this 
comes from the histories and the reckoning of the years ; it 
is certain. 

I must say this because of the saying of St. Augustine, 
that the great chief councils are to be regarded, because 
much depends on them, in order that his opinion may be 

1 Or ecumenical. 

4 In the Canon Law (Decret. Grat. l r dist. 15, c. 2), quoted from 
Gregory I, 2 p. I, 24. 

8 The Council of Nicaea was held in 325; Augustine was horn in 354. 
*A. T>. 381. 

* The Council of Ephesus was held in 43 U the year after Augustine** death. 
"The Council af Chalcedon was in, 451. 

146 On the Councils and the Churches 

rightly understood. He was speaking of only two councils, 
Nicsea and Constantinople, which he had not seen, but after- 
wards learned about from writings; and at their time no 
bishop was over any other. The bishops, neither the bishop 
of Rome nor any other, could never have brought these coun- 
cils into existence, if the emperors had not called them to- 
gether. And so I judge, in my folly, that the great, or uni- 
versal, councils are so called because the bishops were called 
together out of all lands by the monarch, the great, chief, or 
universal, ruler. 

For no matter how wild it makes all the papists, history 
testifies that, if the Emperor Constantine had not called the 
first Council at Nicsea, Pope Sylvester 1 would have had tb 
leave it uncalled. And what would the poor bishop of Rome 
have done, for the bishops in Asia and Greece were not 
subject to him ? If he could have done it, without the power 
of the Emperor Constantine, he would have put it, not in 
Asia, far across the sea, where no one cared -anything about 
his authority (as he well knew by experience), but in Italy, 
at Rome, or somewhere nearby, and he would have compelled 
the emperor to come thither. I have the same to say of the 
other three councils, named above. If the emperors Gra- 
tian, Theodosius, a Theodosius II, 8 and Marcian* had not as- 
sembled those three great councils, they would never have 
been held for the sake of the bishop of Rome or the other 
bishops ; for the bishops in other lands cared as much about 
the Roman bishop, as the bishops of Mainz, Trier and 
Cologne,* now care about the authority of one another; in- 
deed they cared much less. 

Yet one sees in the histories that the Roman bishops, even 
before that time, were always seeking* after lordship over 
the other bishops, but could not get it because of the mon- 

* Sylvester (314-337) was pope at the time of the Council. 

'Gratian (375-83) and Theodositis I (379*5) were responsible for the 
Cornell of Constantinople. 
'Theodosius II was emperor in the East, 408-50. 

* Marcian was also emperor in the East, 450-58. 

* The three principal archbishops of Germany. 

'Sie maben geseucfcelt, gekrunckt, gehustet und 
ge&rochtztet nach der Herrschaft. This defies translation. Cf. 
Weimar Ed. L, 523, notes. 

On the Councils and the Churches 147 

arch. They wrote many letters, now to Africa, now to 
Asia, and so on, even before the Nicene Council, saying that 
nothing was to be ordered publicly without the Roman See* 
But no one paid any attention to it at the time, and the bish- 
ops in Asia, Africa, and Egypt acted as though they did not 
hear it. They gave the people fine words, and they were 
humbk, but they yielded nothing. You will discover this if 
you read the histories and compare them carefully; but you 
must pay no attention to their cries and those of their 
hypocrites, but look the texts and histories in the face or see 
them as a mirror. 

Now when the word "Council" (partly because of the 
above-mentioned letter of Augustine) was in high honor 
among Christians throughout the world, and the fine mon- 
archs, or emperors, were gone, the Roman bishops were 
always considering how they might get possession of the 
name "Council," so, that all Christendom would have to 
believe what they said, and how, under this fine name, they 
might secretly become monarchs. This is the truth and it 
smites their conscience, if they could have a conscience. 
And that is what actually happened. They accomplished it/ 
so that they have now become Constantine, Gratian, Theo- 
dosius, Marcian, and much more than these monarchs and 
their four great councils. For the pope's councils now are 
called, Sifc'valo, sic jubeo, sit pro ratione 
v o 1 u n t a s ^'not in all the world, to be sure, nor through- 
out the Church, but in that part of the Roman Empire that 
Charles the Great had.* At last, possessed by all the devils, 
they shamefully overthrew some of the emperors, trod them 
under foot, and betrayed them in many ways; and they 
would still do the same thing, if they could/ 

Enough, for the present, about what St Augustine says 
of the councils ! We would also show what he believes about 
the fathers. He says, in the letter to St. Jerome, which Gra- andthe 


*Sie habens erseuchelt und erhustet. Another trntranslatable 

m *\'l wiU it; I command it; my will is the reason for it." A proverb orig- 
inating in JuvenaL 

i.e, In the lands of Western Europe. 

* A reference to humiliations put upon the mediaeval emperors by the pope* 

148 On the Councils and the Churches 

tian also quotes, in dist . 9., 1 "I have learned to hold the 
Scriptures alone inerrant ; all others, I so read that, however 
holy or learned they may be, I do not hold what they teach 
to be true, unless they prove, from Scripture or reason, that 
it must be so." Furthermore, in the same section of the 
D e c r e t u m* Is St. Augustine's saying, from the preface 
to his book De trinitate, "Do not follow my writings as 
Holy Scripture. When you find in Holy Scripture anything 
that you did not believe before, believe it without doubt ; but 
in my writings, you should hold nothing for certain, con- 
cerning which you were before uncertain, unless I have 
proved that it is certain/' Many more sayings of this kind 
are in other passages of his writings. He says, for example, 
"As I read the books of others, so will I have mine read." 
The other sayings I shall pass by for the present 

The papists know very well that there are many of these 
passages here and there in Augustine and some bits of them 
have been put in the D e c r e t u m . Nevertheless, they act 
against their own consciences, and pass over these sayings, 
or suppress them, and set the fathers, the councils, nay, even 
the bishops of Rome, who have commonly been very un- 
learned men, above everything. St. Augustine must have de- 
tected many faults in the fathers who were before him, be- 
cause he wants to be impartial and have all of them, includ- 
ing himself, subject to Holy Scripture. Otherwise, why 
should he have needed to guard himself against them by say- 
ing, "However holy or learned they may be"? He might 
have said, "Yes, everything that they write I consider equal 
to Holy Scripture, because they are so holy and learned," but 
he says "No." So he also says in another letter to St. 
Jerome, 8 who was angry because St. Augustine was not 
satisfied with one point in his commentary on Galatians, 
"Dear brother (for he was a fine, kindly man), I hope that 
you would not have your books considered equal to the books 
of the apostles and prophets." 

* w - 9 ' c 5; &c ari*^ MIGNB, xxxiii, 277. 

text in Wimar Ed. L, 524, not* b. 
*d i st , 9 y c. 3; the original in MIGHE, xHi, 869, 

Ep. 82; MIGNE, anodii, 227; Nicenc & Post Niccae Fathers, 
J, 350* 

On the Councils and the Churches 149 

I would be ashamed to death, If such a good, fine man were 
to write such letters to me and ask me not to think my books 
equal to the books of the apostles and prophets, as St. Au- 
gustine writes to St. Jerome. But what we are now concerned 
with is the fact that St. Augustine observed that the fathers 
were sometimes human and had not overcome Romans vii; 1 Rom, 7: 
therefore he will not rely on them, neither on his predeces- 18ff * 
sors, holy and learned fathers though they were, nor on him- 
self, and still less upon his successors, who would be smaller 
men* but he will have the Scriptures as master and judge. 
So it has been said above 3 by Bernard that the oaks and pines 
were his masters, ajtid he would rather drink from the spring 
than from the rill. He could not have said this, if he had 
held the books of the fathers equal to Holy Scripture and 
had found no fault in them ; but he would have said, "It is 
all the same whether I drink from the Scriptures or the 
fathers." He does not do that, but lets the rill flow on, and 
drinks from the spring. 

What are we to do, then ? If we are to bring the Church 
back to the doctrine and opinion of the fathers, there stands 
St. Augustine, and confuses us and lets us find no end to our 
differences of opinion, because he will not have reliance put 
upon the fathers, bishops, or councils, no matter how holy and 
learned they may be, nor on himself, but refers us to the 
Scriptures ; "otherwise, he says, everything is -uncertain, and 
lost, and vain. But to exclude St. Augustine is in conflict 
with our purpose, which is to have a Church that will accord 
with the doctrine of the fathers; for if St. Augustine is 
thrown out of their number, the others are not worth much, 
and it is intolerable nonsense not to consider St. Augustine 
one of the best fathers, since throughout all Christendom he 
is esteemed the highest of them, and both Church and 
school have hitherto preserved his writings best of all, as is 
plain. And yet you compel us to this endless trouble and 
labor of holding to the councils and fathers, against the 
Scriptures, and judging ourselves by them! Before that 

good that I would, I do not, but the evil that I would not, that I do, 
*Se above, p. 143. 


On the Councils and the Churches 






happens we shall all be dead ; the Last Day will come long 
before that. 

However, we shall put aside St. Augustine, Bernard, and 
those who write such things, and take up the councils and 
fathers themselves and see whether we should be able to 
direct our life by them. But in order not to make too long 
a story of it, we shall take up particularly the first two great 
councils, which St. Augustine praises; namely, those of 
Nicaea and Constantinople, although he did not see them. 
Nay, in order to make our case altogether certain, and in 
order that we may make no mistakes and have no fears, we 
shall take up the first council, that of the apostles, held at 
Jerusalem, of which St. Luke writes in Acts xv. There it 
is written that the apostles claimed that the Holy Spirit 
ordered these things through them. Visum est Spir- 
itui Sancto et nobis, etc., "It seemed good to the 
Holy Ghost and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than 
these necessary things ; that ye abstain from things sacrificed 
to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from 
fornication, from which if ye abstain, ye do well." 

There we hear that the Holy Ghost (as the preachers of 
councils boast) commands that we are to eat nothing that 
has been sacrificed to idols, no blood, nothing that has been 
strangled. Now if we would have a Church according to this 
council (as would be only right, since it is the highest and 
the first, and was held by the apostles themselves), we should 
have to teach and insist that no prince, lord, burgher, or 
peasant should henceforth eat geese, roe-deer, stag, or porik; 
cooked in blood, and must also avoid carp and fish-jelly; for 
there is blood in them or, as the cooks say, "color." And 
especially must the burghers and peasants eat no red sausage, 
or blood-sausage, for that is not just thin blood, but blood 
that has been thickened and cooked, a very coarse blood. 
Likewise we must not eat rabbits or birds for, according to 
fee laws of the chase, they are all strangled, 1 even though 
they are not cooked in blood, but only fried. 

If, then, we are to abstain from blood, according to this 

1 Le,, Taken in scares. 

On the Councils and the Churches 151 

council, we must let the Jews be our masters, in church and 
kitchen, for they have a special, big book on the subject of 
blood-eating, 1 so big that one cannot vault over it with a pole, 
and they look for blood so closely that they will not eat 
meat with any Gentile or Christian even though the meat 
is not strangled, but slaughtered as purely as possible (like 
the meat of oxen and calves) and the blood washed out with 
water; they would rather die than do it. God help us ! how 
we Christians would be tormented over this council, in the 
two matters of eating blood and the meat of strangled ani- 
mals alone ! Let anyone who will start to bring the Church 
into obedience to this council ; I shall follow him very gladly. 
Otherwise, I want to be excused from listening to this cry 
of "Councils ! Councils ! You do not keep the councils and 
fathers !" Or I will cry back, "You yourselves do not keep 
councils or fathers, because you treat this highest council 
and the highest fathers, the apostles themselves, with con- 
tempt ! Why do you think that I ought or must keep coun- 
cils and fathers, when you yourselves will not touch them 
with a finger?" I would say, as I said to the Sabbatarians, 3 
that they ought first to keep their Mosaic law, and then we, 
too, would keep it; but when they themselves do not and 
cannot keep it, it is laughable when they ask us to keep it. 

You say it is not possible to introduce the rules of this 
council because opposite practices have become too wide- 
spread. That is no answer, for we have undertaken to gov- 
ern ourselves according to the councils, and here it says, 
"The Holy Ghost has decreed/' Against the Holy Ghost the 
plea that things have gone too far or taken too deep a hold, 
has no force, and that kind of excuses leaves no conscience 
sure of what to do. If we would be conciliar, we must keep 
this council above all others ; if not, then we may keep none 
of the other councils and thus be free from all councils. For 
in this council there were not simple bishops, as in the 
others, hut the apostles themselves, who were the Holy 

* Luther is probably referring to the Talmud. Cf . Weimar Ed. L, 527, 
note a. 

a Ein Brief D. Mart. Luther. Wider die Sabbather, 
in March, 153& Weimar Ed., L, pp. 312-37. 

152 On the Councils and the Churches 

Ghost's certain and highest fathers. Besides, it is not so 
impossible to avoid blood and things strangled ! What would 
it be like, if we had to eat corn, herbs, beets, apples, and 
other fruits of the earth and the trees, as our ancestors did 
before the Flood, when it was not permitted to eat meat? 
We should not die of hunger, even if we were to eat neither 
meat nor fish* How many people, even today, have to live, 
eating fish or meat very seldom- Thus the plea of impossi- 
bility does not help to strengthen our conscience against the 
Holy Ghost, because without injury to body or soul, we could 
go back to living, not only without eating blood and things 
strangled, as Moses teaches, but also without fish and meat, 
as before the Flood. I am surprised that, with all the many 
spirits of disorder of these days, the devil has not brought up 
these beautiful ideas, which have such fine precedents of 
Scripture on their side. 

If we were to say that all this was not only impossible, but 
had fallen of itself and come into disuse or gone out of use 
(as I am accustomed to call the canons which are no more in 
use canones mortuos, "dead canons"), this again 
would not stand the test. I know, to be sure, that the 
pope and his followers seek this way out, and pretend that 
the Church has the power to alter this council of the 
apostles. This is a He ! They cannot produce a single utter- 
ance of the Church which contains a commandment to do 
this or make any changes. Besides, it is not proper for the 
Church to alter an ordinance of the Holy Ghost, and it never 
does so. 

They do not see, however, blind leaders that they are, that 
with that kind of talk they are only preparing a rod for 
their own hide. If we allow that men have power to alter 
the ordinance and commandment of the Holy Ghost, we shall 
straightway tread the pope under foot, with all his breves 
and bulls, and say, "If the first decrees of the apostles are 
not binding, though we are sure that the Holy Ghost estab- 
lished them, as they themselves say, Visum est, how 
much less shall the power and the decrees of the popes be 
binding, about which we are by no means so certain that the 


On the Councils and the Churches 153 

Holy Ghost was with them as He was with the apostles? 
We must let the apostles amount to something, too, and even 
though they were not above the popes, (as the heretic, Dr. 
Luther, holds), nevertheless, we must give them a seat 
alongside the popes. And as a proof of this, the popes have 
often been open and abandoned knaves, and again and again 
one of them has thrown away the decrees of another. The 
Holy Ghost cannot contradict Himself thus and the apostles 
were not such popes or knaves. Therefore there must be 
something else to say about this ; these bad jokes will not 
work ; unless one were to say that the Church was built upon 
a reed, which the wind blows hither and yon, according 
to the whim of the pope or of men. For the Church must 
not sway on a reed, but rest upon the rock and be firmly 7 . 26 
founded, as Matthew vii and xvi say." 16:18 

^But we were beginning to say that it 1 has fallen of itself, 
without alteration by the Church, and therefore one need no 
longer keep it. Nay, dear friend, M a 1 e , 3 says the jurist. 
If one is not to keep a law, or it is to become no law because 
it is not kept or has fallen, then let us be easy in our minds 
and keep no more laws. A whore can say that she is doing 
right because the sixth commandment has fallen and is not 
in use among adulterers and adulteresses. Nay, we children 
of Adam, together with the devils, will hold a council against 
God, and pass this resolution : "Listen, God, all your com- 
mandments have fallen and are no longer in use among us 
men and devils ; therefore we ought no longer to keep them, 
but act against them ; you ought to approve of that and not 
condemn us, since there is no sin, when the law has fallen." 
So robbers and murderers might also beatify themselves, 
and say: "We are no longer bound to be obedient to you 
princes and lords, but are right in fighting you and robbing 
you, for among us your law has fallen, etc." 

Advise us, now, what we are to do. It does not help us 
that the apostolic council has fallen (which Is the truth !) or 
been altered by the Church (which is a Eel). What harm 
would be done, if we were to scratch out the word, Holy 

x i.e v The decree of the apostoHc council. 
* **Wroag." 

154 On the Councils and the Churches 

Ghost, and let it be the apostles alone who made this decree, 
without the Holy Ghost? Perhaps that would help the case ! 
If that is laughable, then think up something better ! If one 
does not scratch out "Holy Ghost" from the council, then one 
-of two things must happen, either both we and the papists 
should keep this council; or we should be free from it and 
it need not be kept, and so we poor heretics would be rid of 
the cry, "Councils, Councils, Councils !" For if this council 
is not to be kept, then none of the rest is to be kept, as I 
have said. Otherwise, they should hear once more the cry, 
Medice, cura te ipsum, 1 "Hans take yourself by 
the nose." Let them who raise this cry first keep it, and we 
will follow in their footsteps. If not, then their crying 
and sputtering of this word, "Councils, Councils" is not in 
earnest, but they are only using it to trample people in the 
face, to terrify weak consciences treacherously and wickedly, 
and to destroy simple souls. 

I say all this about this council, because it is the first and 
the highest, so that we may think the matter over before we 
allow that the Church should live, or be ruled, according to 
the councils. If this council causes us so much confusion, 
what will it be like when we take up the others? It is true, 
I admit, that the word "Council" is easy to say, and a ser- 
mon about keeping the councils is easy to preach ; but what 
attitude to take in order to put the councils in force again, 
what about that, my dear friend? 3 The pope and his fol- 
lowers are clever; they get off lightly by saying that he is 
above all councils and may keep what he will and allow 
others to keep them as far as he will. Yes, if the problem 
can be solved that way, then let us stop using the word "Coun- 
cil" and stop preaching that the councils shall be kept, and 
cry, instead, "Pope, pope! The pope's doctrine should be 
kept !" Thus we all get off easy and are fine Christians, like 
them! For what good will the council do us, if we cannot 
and will not keep it, but only boast the name or the letters 
that compose it? 

* "Physician, cure thyself/' Cf. aboye, p. 139. 
*Wo nan? wo da? lieber Frcund. 

On the Councils and the Churches 155 

Or (since we are talking about it, and must jest a little 
In this carnival-time 1 ), it seems better still to me, if it is 
only a matter of the letters C-o-u-n-c-i-l, without deeds or 
results, that we should make the penmen 2 popes, cardinals, 
bishops, and preachers. They could write those letters finely, 
big, little, black, red, green, yellow, and any way that was 
wanted. Then the Church would be ruled by the councils 
and there would be no need to keep what has been ordered 
by the councils, but the Church would have enough when it 
had the letters, C-o-u-n-c-i-l, C-ou-n-c-H. But if the pen- 
men do not please us, let us take painters and wood- 
carvers and printers, to paint and carve and print us beau- 
tiful councils, and then the Church is splendidly ruled. Let 
us make the painters, carvers and printers pope, cardinals 
and bishops ! What would be the use, then, of asking any 
further how the decrees of the councils are to be kept? 
Letters and pictures are enough. 

But think a little further! Suppose that all men were 
blind, and could not see these councils when they were 
written, painted, carved, printed! How, then, could the 
Church be ruled by the councils ? My advice is to take the 
choristers at Halberstadt and Magdeburg, when they sing 
the Quicunque s and let them shout, instead, "Council, 
Council" until the church and the whole dome shake. We 
could hear them away across the Elbe, even if we were all 
blind. Then the Church would be well ruled and these 
choristers would quickly be made popes, cardinals and 
bishops, because it is so easy for them to rule the Church, 
which has become an impossible task for the holy Fathers 
in Rome. 

I shall say more about this council after a while; this is 
getting too long, for I must not forget the Council of Nicsea, 
which is the best, and the first, universal council after that 

Of the apostles. Nicaa 

This council decrees, among other things, that Christians 
who have fallen are to be received back into penance for a 

^-Fastnacht, axx indication of the date when this part of the treatise 
was written. In 1539, Shrove Tuesday was February 19th. 
* D z e Stuhlschreiber, the professional penmen. 
8 The Athanasiau Creed, Quicunque vult salvus esse. 

156 On the Councils and the Churches 

period of seven years ; if they die in the meantime, they are 
to be free, and are not to be denied the Sacrament. 1 This 
decree the council-criers themselves do not keep, but act 
against it and consign dying Christians to purgatory with 
the remainder of their penance. If the pope were to keep 

tory this rule, the devil ! what a poor beggar he would become, 
and all the monasteries along with him, if this mine, ore-pit, 
and trade viz., purgatory, masses, pilgrimages, founda- 
tions, 2 brotherhoods, indulgences, bulls, etc. were to come 
to nothing. The devil protect the pope, with all cardinals, 
bishops, monks and nuns, so that the Church may not be 
ruled according to this council ! What would become of them ? 
But this decree concerns me, for I have urged it against the 
pope before now, and can readily imagine how they might 
turn it about and interpret it against me/ and so I shall let 
at go now. I must deal just now with things that affect 
both parties, to the praise and honor of the council-criers ! 

War The same council decrees that those who give up warfare 

for the sake of religion, and afterwards go to war again, 
are to spend five years among the catechumens, and two 
years after that are to be admitted to the Sacrament. 4 I 
take the word "religion" to mean, here, the common Chris- 
tian faith; of that more later. In order not to get off the 
track and be hindered in my course by such side-questions, 
I shall not here discuss whether the council was forbidding 
war of had the power and right to forbid it or condemn it, 
if the soldier did not otherwise deny the faith of which the 
former rule speaks. On the contrary, our question is 
whether this article viz., that no soldier can be saved or 
be a Christian, has hitherto been kept or whether it is to 
be kept henceforth as a matter of law. For the pope him- 
self, with all his followers, must testify that this article has 
fallen and cannot possibly be set up again, far less even than 

^he Canons of Nicaea were preserved in several different forms. For the 
provisions here cited, seeNicene & Postnicene Fathers, Series 
I, Vol. XIV, pp. 24, 29, Canons XI and XIII. Luther's citation of the canons 
is not always accurate and seems to rest upon the account of Rufinus. (Cf. 
Weimar Ed., L, 531, note b). 

*ie. Endowments to provide masses for the dead at stated times. All the 
practices here referred to were connected with the sacrament of penance and 
belief in purgatory. 

"i.e., As a support for the sacrament of penance. 

* Canon XII. (Nicene Fathers, XIV, 27). 

On the Councils and the Churches 157 

the apostles' decree against blood sausage, black jelly and the 
like, spoken of above. 1 The council speaks, not of murder- 
ers, robbers, enemies, but d e militia, i.e., of regular 
war, when a prince, king, or emperor is in the field with his 
banner, in which case, God Himself has commanded, in 
Romans xiii, that people are to be in subjection and be obedi- 
ent, even though the rulers were heathen, as St. Maurice 2 13:1 
and many others did, so long as they do not compel us to 
fight against God.* 

Now let us rule the Church according to this council! 
First let us ungird the sword from the emperor and then 
command that the whole world is to keep peace and no 
one is to begin war, or endure it; for war is forbidden by 
the Council of Nicsea on pain of seven years* penance. What 
more do we want? The Church is ruled now; we need no 
soldiers; the devil is dead; and all the years since the time 
of this council have been golden years 4 ; nay, they have been 
eternal life itself, in perfect peace, if the council's statute is 
right and is to be kept. 

But we should have to have good and able painters to 
paint this Church for us so that we could see it; or, if we 
were blind we should have to have much greater shouters 
than the choristers of Halberstadt, so that we could hear it. 
Perhaps the penmen could write the letters C-o-u-n-c-i-l 
better than we poor Christians, because they have more 
colors and make better letters ; but the work is not there, 
and we cannot be saved by letters, pictures and shouts. We 
must speak differently about this matter, and leave the fet- 
ters, the pictures and the shouts to the papists. It will be for 
us to live according to the councils and not merely boast of 
the letters C-o-u-n-c-i-l ; for we are to be Christians. 

You say that the council is to be understood to speak of 
those Christians who run after war of their own accord, for 

1 See above, p. 150. 

2 The story of St. Maurice and the Theban legion is one of the most famcras 
legends of the Middle Ages. Maurice was commander of the legion, which is 
said to have been exterminated by order of the Emperor Maximian, because 
it would not participate in the persecution of Christians; the number of the 
martyrs was 6,600. Cf. Realencyk., XII, 452 ff. 

* On this whole subject, see this volume, p. 32 ff. 
4 Le., Jubilee-years. 

158 On the Councils and the Churches 

the sake of money, and it is right thus to condemn them. 
In God's name ! I am willing to be an ignorant fool and ass 
for holding the councils so high ! Interpret it that way, if 
you can, and I shall be satisfied ! But tell me this ! Were 
you there in the Council of Nicsea, when this article was 
adopted, that you can say so certainly that this is its mean- 
ing? If not, where have you read this? The article says 
drily, de militia, "Of war" ; it says nothing of unjust 
wars. It would not have been necessary for the council to 
condemn such wars, for they had already been highly con- 
demned by reason among all the heathen, who were not 
Christians and had no councils. 

If a king or prince has to fight and defend himself in a 
just war, he has to take what soldiers he can get. But if these 
volunteers 1 are condemned, what will become of emperors, 
kings and princes, now that there are no soldiers to be had 
except volunteers? Tell me, are the lords to fight single- 
handed, or weave straw-men to oppose their enemies Ask 
the council's advice, whether this is to be done! Yes, good 
sir, it is easy to say that a council has given such a command- 
ment, when one looks at the letters, as a cow at a door, not 
thinking of what goes along with it, or how one can keep 
it and live by it! And why have the popes and bishops 
themselves not kept it, who have been the cause of so much 
war and bloodshed throughout the world, and yet, are 
always crying, "Councils, Councils ! Fathers, Fathers !" only 
that they themselves act against them and pick out of them 
the things that they want us to do? 

"Ei, Luther, this way you bring the Council of Nicsea 
under suspicion of sedition ! For if we were thus to teach 
that the emperor and his soldiers were condemned, even 
though they had a just cause, we should rightly be thought 
seditious on the basis of our own writings/' I say, how- 
ever, that I am now a good conciliarist, and must be ; after 
a while I shall say more of this, and explain myself. Now 
I say, as I said before, that the council cannot have been 
speaking of anything else than regular warfare, as it was 

1 Zulaxtf f ende kricger. 

On the Councils and the Churches 159 

then conducted in the Roman Empire, tinder this same 
emperor, Constantine, as under his heathen predecessors. 
The foot-soldiers were then known as m i 1 i t e s . They 
were settled citizens, who had permanent pay, so that when 
the father died, or became too old, the son had to become a 
soldier, in his father's stead, 1 and was forced to do so. The 
Turks still retain this custom. I have heard it said that 
the king of France does practically the same thing in Switz- 
erland, and gives pay even to children. 3 If this is true, it is 
not an invention. 

The horsemen, too, were permanent, hereditary soldiers, 
and had their pay. They were called e q u i t e s . These 
horsemen were like our nobles, who have to maintain horses 
and armor, for which they enjoy their fiefs. Thus the 
Roman Empire always had a certain number of both in- 
fantry and cavalry, receiving permanent pay. Therefore, 
I say that if the council is to be understood rightly, it must 
be understood to speak of nothing else than regular war- 
fare, because it had to speak of the Roman soldiery, in 
which, according to St. Paul's teaching, many Christians 
had to serve obediently, men like St. Maurice 8 and his 
comrades and Jovinian, Gratian, Valentinian and Theodo- 
sius* before they became emperors. But if it was right, 
before baptism, to serve heathen emperors in war, why 
should it be wrong to render the same service to Christian 
emperors, after baptism? 5 

Unless, perhaps, religio, in this place, means not the 
Christian faith, but monasticism. Then I should be caught, 
and according to this council,, I should have to crawl back 
again into my cowl, whether I wanted to or not, and I should 
not know' how to find St. Peter in heaven, because he was 
a fisherman before he was an apostle, and plied his fisher- 
man's trade again after he became an apostle, though he 
had left it for Christ's sake. 

1 THs was not the Roman, custom in imperial days. The Imperial armies 
were secured by conscription and voluntary enlistment. 

3 This system of "pensions" ^ Switzerland was bitterly assailed by ZwingIL 
See JACKSON, U 1 r i c h Zwingli. 

8 See above, p. 157. 

* All emperors who had distinguished themselves as military leaders. 

* The phrases ''before baptism" and "after baptism" probably refer to the 
emperors. Cf. Berlin E d , II, 33 n t 

VoL V 11. 

160 On the Councils and the Churches 

Moa- Now suppose, that religio here means monkery, 
despite the fact that at that time there were no orders, and 
no such monasteries, or monks as today, although monasti- 
cism entered soon and rapidly thereafter. St Anthony 1 
and his followers lived about that time, and all the monks 
call him father and founder. But at this time "monk" meant 
what we now call "anchorite* 5 or "hermit," and the Greek 
word monachos means solitarius, a "solitary," 
one who lives alone, apart from men, in a woods or a wilder- 
ness, or otherwise quite alone. I know of no such monks 
now, and there have been none of them for more than 
a thousand years, unless, perhaps you would call the poor 
prisoners in towers and dungeons monks ; and, sad to say ! 
they are real monks, for they sit alone, away from men. 
The monks of the papacy are more with people and less 
alone than any other folk are, for what class or rank in the 
world is more among people and less apart from them than 
these monks, unless it be claimed that the monasteries, in 
city and country, are not among men. 

But let us let grammar go and talk of facts. Suppose 
that religio here does mean monasticism, as it existed 
at that time! Why, then, does this council condemn 
militia, i.e., obedience to temporal rulers, and say that 
monks, in this obedience, cannot be saved? We could en- 
dure it, if monasticism were praised, but when regular 
militia is condemned, as though St. Anthony could not 
serve the emperor in war with a good conscience, that is too 
much. Where would the emperor get his soldiers, if they 
all wanted to become monks and allege that they dared not 
serve in war? Tell me, good sir, what is the difference 
between this doctrine and sedition, especially if we were to 
teach it? And yet we know that this self -chosen monkery 
is not commanded by God, and obedience is commanded. 
If the monks would flee away from men, they ought to 
flee honorably and honestly and not leave a stench behind 
than ; i.e., they ought not, by their flight, to put a stench upon 
other classes and their pursuits, as though these other things 

*St. Anthony entered upon the hermit-Hie abotit 270, fifty-five years before 
the Council of Nicaa. 

On the Councils and the Churches 161 

were utterly damnable and their self-chosen monkery must 
be pure balsam. For when one flees and becomes a monk, 
it sounds as though he were saying, "Pfui ! How the peo- 
ple stink ! How damnable is their state ! I will be saved, 
and let them go to the devil!" If Christ had fled thus and 
become such a holy monk, who would have died for us or 
rendered satisfaction for us poor sinners? Would it have 
been the monks, with their strict lives of flight? 

True, St. John the Baptist was in the wilderness, though 
not entirely away from people ; but afterwards, when he had 
reached man's estate, he came back among people and 
preached. Christ like Moses on Mount Sinai, was forty 
days quite apart from men in the wilderness and neither ate 
nor drank ; but He, too, came back among the people. Well, 
then, let us hold them for hermits and monks if we like; 
and yet neither of them condemns paid soldiers as a class, Luke 
but John says to them, "Be satisfied with your wages and 3:14 
do no one violence or wrong." Christ went to the centurion 
at Capernaum, in order to help his servant, who served, be- g : io 
yond a doubt, for pay, and Christ does not call his class 
lost, but praises his faith above all Israel ; and St. Peter al- Acts 
lowed Cornelius, at Csesarea, to remain centurion after his 10:lff * 
baptism, together with his servants, who were there in the 
pay of the Romans. How much less, then, ought St. An- 
thony and his monks to have cast a stench upon this ordi- 
nance of God, with his new and peculiar holiness ; since he 
was a simple layman, wholly unlearned, and was not a 
preacher and held no office in the Church. To be sure, I 
believe that he was great before God, as were many others 
of his. pupils; but the thing he undertook is full of offense 
and dangerous, though he was preserved in it, as the elect 
are preserved amid sins and other offenses. Nevertheless, 
it is not the example of his life that is to be praised, but the 
example and teaching of Christ and John. 

Now whether r e 1 i g i o means Christian faith or monk- 
ery, it follows from this council that militia, which 
was at that time obedience to temporal order, is to be re- 
garded as either disobedience to God or as a stinking obedi- 

162 On the Councils and the Churches 

ence, compared with human, self-chosen monkery. But the 
legend of St. Martin 1 indicates that religio meant Chris- 
tian faith; for when he desired to become a Christian, he 
gave up his hereditary militia, in which his father had 
been and in which, when he became too old, he had caused 
his son Martin to be enrolled in his place, as the law and 
custom of the Roman Empire prescribed. And this act of 
his was given an evil interpretation, as though he feared the 
enemy and therefore fled away and became a Christian. This 
can be read in his legend. Thus it appears that at that time 
the notion had already grown up among the people, not 
without the preaching of some bishops, that militia was 
to be regarded a perilous and damned estate and that one 
who would serve God must flee from it. For St. Martin 
lived not long after the Council of Nicsea; he was a soldier 
under Julian/ 

If we are to keep this council, or re-establish it, we must 
flee with St. Anthony into the wilderness, make monks out 
of emperors and kings, and say that they cannot be Chris- 
tians or be saved ; or else preach that they live in perilous 
and stinking obedience and do not serve God. On the other 
hand, if we do not keep this council, we must not keep any. 
One is as good as another, for one Holy Ghost rules them 
all, and we do not want to have councils in paint or in let- 
ters, 5 but real councils that can be followed. But I suspect 
that there is a swindle here and that the holy fathers never 
adopted this article, because they would certainly have shown 
consideration to the emperor Constantine, who had released 
them jfrom the tyrants, not with St. Anthony's monkery, 
but with war and sword. It looks as Chough the other worth- 
less bishops had patched this into the record, or patched it on 
at a later time.* 

1 ar oi " -*** <*Idt early motiks of 


'The nephew of Constantine. He was emperor 361-63. 
3 Cf. above, p. 155. 

. , . . 

i, V^A?*^^ Cb ? nca ? N l a ' of tk* ancient Councils in general, 
had been handed down in various forms into some of which, forgeries had Wo 
f?^S2:V2? no Authentic text in Luther's day. The modern texts have 
been established by methods of higher criticism of exactly the kind that Lather 
here employs, though his suggestion on this point has not been generaHyaccepted. 

On the Councils and the Churches 163 

Moreover the same council decrees that the Roman bishop, 
according to ancient custom, is to have the suburbicarian 
churches commended to him, as the bishop of Alexandria the 
the churches in Egypt. I will not and cannot declare what 
suburbicariae means, since it is not my word ; but it 
sounds as though it meant the churches located, prior to that 
time, in Italy, around the Roman churches, just as the 
churches in Egypt were around the churches at Alexandria. 1 
Interpret it as you will, however, I understand well that this 
council does not give the bishop of Rome any lordship over 
the surrounding churches, but commends them to him, in 
order that he m#y care for them; and it does this, not as 
though it had to be, j u r e d i v i n o, a but because of ancient 
custom. Custom is not scriptura sacra, however, 
or God's Word. Moreover, it takes the churches of Egypt 
away from the bishop of Rome, also according to ancient 
custom, and commends them to the bishop of Alexandria. 
Likewise, it is quite thinkable that the churches in Syria were 
commended to the Bishop of Antioch or of Jerusalem, and 
not to the Bishop of Rome, since they were situated farther 
from Rome than Alexandria or Egypt. 

Now if this council is to be valid for our churches and its 
decrees go into effect, we must first condemn the bishop of 
Rome as a tyrant and burn all his bulls and decretals with 
fire. For there is not one bull or decretal in which he does 
not boast, with great bellowing and threatening, that he is 
the supreme head and lord of all the churches on earth, to 
whom everything on earth must be subject in order to be 
saved. 8 ' And this is nothing else than to say flatly, "The 
Council of Nicsea is false, accursed, and damned, because it 
takes from me this lordship over all things, and makes the 
Bishop of Alexandria my equal." But the Turk and the 
Sultan long ago interpreted this article of the council and 
put it out of force, by the destruction of Alexandria/ so 
that neither the pope nor we need bother about it. Thus we 

* This rests, apparently, on Rufiaus' version of Canon VI. Cf N i c e n e 
Fathers XIV, pp. 16 f. 

a "By divine right/' 

* Almost the- very language o the bull Unam Sanctum o 1302. Cf. 
MIJLBT, Quell en. No. 372, 

4 Alexandria fell before the Saracens m 641. 

164 On the Councils and the Churches 

learn that the articles of the council are not all equally per- 
manent, and to be kept forever, like articles of faith. 

Moreover, this council decrees that those who make them- 
cdtt*cy selves eunuchs, because of the. great and unbearable burn- 
ing of the flesh, are not to be admitted to clergy or the offices 
of the Church. 1 Again, it decrees that the bishops are to 
have no women around them" or living with them, except a 
mother, sister, aunts (i.e., sisters of mother or father), or 
the like near relatives. 3 Here I do not understand the Holy 
Ghost at all, as He speaks in this council. Those who make 
themselves eunuchs, because of the unbearable burning of 
the flesh, are not fit for church offices; and they, too, are 
not fit who take or have wives, as a protection against this 
I Cor. burning, according to St. Paul's advice, in I Corinthians vii. 
7:2 What is intended by this? Is a bishop, or preacher, then, 
to stick in this intolerable burning and not be able to rescue 
himself from this perilous state, either by making himself a 
eunuch or by marrying ? And why command one who has a 
wife that he shall not have other women with him? That 
is unseemly even for laymen who are married. So, too, the 
matter of mother, sisters, aunts, would take care of itself, 
if the bishop had a wife; there would be no need of prohi- 
bitions. Or has the Holy Ghost nothing else to do in the 
councils, than bind and burden His servants with impossible, 
perilous, unnecessary laws ? 

The histories say that St. Paphnutius,* that important man, 
opposed the bishops in this council, when they undertook to 
forbid marriage, even to those who had previously taken 
wives, and wanted to forbid them to discharge the marriage- 
duty, even with their own wives. He advised against it, and 
said that if a man discharged the marriage-duty with his own 
wife, that, too, was chastity. It is written that he won; but 

1 C a n o n I (Nicene Fathers, XTV, p. 8.) 

3 Can on III (op. cit, p. 11). This canon does not refer to the mar- 
riage of tie clergy, but to the presence in their homes of mulieres 
subintrodttctae, i.e., women who were neither wives nor near relatives. 

* CASSIODORUS, Historia Tripartita, II, 14. This -work, which Lu- 
ther quotes extensively, was the standard Latin textbook in Church History 
during the whole Middle Ages. It was composed of excerpts from the Greek 
Church historians, Socrates, Sozomen and Theodore*. Of Faphnutius little 
is known, save that he was bishop of a city ra JEgypt and a member of the 
Council of Nicaea, and that he opposed the prohibition of marriage to the clergy. 

On the Councils and the Churches 165 

these two decrees sound as though the bishops had gone ahead 
and forbidden wives absolutely; for there were also many 
unfit and false bisliops along with the good majority in the 
council, such as the Arians and their sectaries, as the his- 
tories clearly show. Perhaps they had something to do with 
it ! But of that more hereafter ! 

We shall now leave the councils, a little while, and take a 
look at the fathers. To be sure, Augustine leads us some- 
what astray, because, as said above, 1 he will have none of 
the fathers believed, but Tyill have them all in the captivity 
and under the compulsion of the Scriptures. Nevertheless, 
we shall have a look at them. 

St. Cyprian is one of the earliest fathers. He lived long 
before the Council of Nicsea, in the time of the martyrs, and Cyp*ian 
was himself a celebrated martyr. 3 He taught, and was very 
stiff about it, that those baptized by heretics must be rebap- ^ 
tized. He stuck to this opinion until his martyrdom, al- Heretics 
though vigorously admonished by other bishops, and St. Cor- 
nelius, 3 bishop of Rome, who was martyred at the same time, 
would not hold with him. Later St. Augustine had great 
difficulty in excusing him, and had finally to resort to the 
idea that this error of his was washed away by the blood 
which he shed because of his love of Christ. So saying, St. 
Augustine condemns St. Cyprian's doctrine of rebaptism, 
which was afterwards repeatedly condemned, and rightly so. 
But we might well be happy over Cyprian, because in him 
Christ comforts us poor sinners mightily, by showing that 
even His great saints must still be human; and, indeed, St. 
Cyprian, that great man and beloved martyr, stumbled even 
more in other matters, just as plain, of which there is now 
no time to speak. 

But where do we stand with the fathers who bequeathed 
this doctrine to St. Cyprian ? You may read in the E c c 1 e - 
siastical History, 4 Book VII, pages one and two, 

1 See above, p. 148. 

2 He was bishop of Carthage after 248, put to> death because of his faith, in 
258. His views on rebaptism are found in MIGNE, 3, 1073 ff. r 1089 ff., 1153 ff.; 
Vienna, 3, 698 ff., 778 ff.: A n t e - N i c e n e Fathers, 5, 373 5. 

* Cornelius was pope 251-53. 

* ETTSEBIUS> E c c 1 . Hist, vii, 4-6. 

166 On the Councils and the Churches 

what the great bishop Dionysius of Alexandria writes to 
hishop Sixtus of Rome, 1 saying that in former times, before 
the bishops in Africa did it, it was done by great and im- 
portant bishops and was decreed by the Council of Iconium, 
and that so important a fact should be considered before the 
practice was condemned. Besides, this article stands plainly 
in the proceedings of the Nicene Council, that the heretics, 
Pattlianists or Photinians, are to be rebaptized; 3 and this 
article gives St. Augustine much difficulty in his book O n 
Heresies.* He had worried long and much with the 
Anabaptists, the Donatists, but for the sake of this decree 
of the Nicene Council, he twists out of the difficulty with 
words like these: "It is to be believed that the Photinians 
did not keep the form of baptism, as other heretics did." 
Yes, it is to be believed by anyone who can believe it, when 
there is no proof ! The Photinians either had or made an- 
other Gospel than the whole Church had, and it is rather to 
be believed that they used the common form; for heretics 
have always been glad to boast the Scriptures on their side. 
Thus Anabaptism will maintain that it is right, against St. 
Augustine and all of us, because the Nicene Council and 
other councils and fathers before it agree with Cyprian. 

Moreover, theCanones apostolorum, the A p o s- 
Tfc* tolic Canons,* have now been printed and circulated 
Apostolic ky jjjany^ j n order that the Church may again be well ruled. 
Among them is this canon : K "The Sacrament and the bap- 
tism of the heretics are to be regarded as nothing, but they 
are to be rebaptized." It is easy to reckon that if the apos- 
tles ordained this, it afterwards came down through the 
earlier fathers and councils (as Dionysius says) to St. 

1 Sixtus II (2 57-58) j also known as Xystus. 

"This canon (C. XIX) is not genuine, but is a later addition to the acts of 
the council. The Paulianists and Photinians are the followers of the heretical 
bishops, Paul of Samosata (d, 269) and Photintis of Sinrdum (d. 376). 

8 In M i g n e , xlii, 34. The Donatists refused to admit the validity of any 
acts of clergy who were guilty of mortal sin. 

*A collection of alleged decrees of synods, claiming apostolic origin. The 
collection was made in the latter part of the fourth or early part of the fifth 
century and is closely related to the so-called Apostolic Constitu- 
tions. Luther probably knew them in the edition of Merlin, Paris, 1524, or 
from the work of Crabbe (above, p. 137, note). See Realencyk., I, 734 ff. 

Canon 38. 

On the Councils and the Churches 167 

Cyprian, and thence to the Council of Nicsea; for Cyprian 
was before the Council of Nicsea. If the apostles decreed this, 
then St. Cyprian is right and St. Augustine and the whole 
Church are overcome, and we with him, for we hold to his 
view ; for who will teach contrary to the apostles ? But if 
the apostles did not decree it, then these book-writers and 
magisters ought all to be drowned and hanged together, be- 
cause they spread, print, and write such books under the 
apostles' names ; they deserve, too, that no one should believe 
any of their books or utterances, since they are always pro- 
ducing these books which they themselves do not believe, 
and loading them upon us, with the letters C-o-u-n-c-i-K 
F-a-t-h-e-r-s. A chorister of Halberstadt could write these 
letters better than they, if it were only a matter of the let- 
ters, with which they endeavor to make fools of us. 

Now if St. Cyprian and the Council of Nioea and others 
had this rule of the apostles before them, how shall we har- 
monize the fathers ? The apostles and Cyprian want rebap- 
tism; St. Augustine and the whole Church afterwards want 
to have it considered wrong. Meanwhile, who is preaching 
to Christians, until this difference is healed and harmonized? 
O yes ! it is good to juggle with councils and fathers, if one 
only fools with the letters or postpones a council all the time, 
as has happened these last twenty years, 1 and does not con- 
sider, meanwhile, what becomes of the souls, who should be 
fed with sure teaching, as Christ says in John xxi, P a s c e 
oves meas. a zi-. 

I excuse St. Cyprian, insofar, at least, as he was not such 
an anabaptist as ours now are ; for he held that- there were 
no sacraments at all among the heretics and that they must, 
therefore, be baptized like other heathen, and the error of 
his heart was in thinking that he was not bestowing a second 
baptism, but baptizing an unbaptized heathen; for he neither 
knows nor holds to a rebaptism, but only one single baptism. 
Our anabaptists, however, confess that among us and under 
the papacy there is a true baptism, but since it is given or 

I n t r o d u'c t i 
a "Feed my sheep." 

168 On the Councils and the Churches 

received by the unworthy, it is no baptism. This St. Cyprian 
would not have suffered, much less done. 

I have wanted to say t&is, for myself, about the holy mar- 
tyr, St. Cyprian, of whom I have a high opinion as regards 
his character and faith; for doctrine is subject to the saying 

i Tkes.of St. Paid in I Thessalonians v, Omnia probate, 
5:21 etc. 1 But we are not now concerned with what I say, but 

The with making the fathers agree with one another, so that one 
may be sure what and how to preach to poor Christians ; for 
here the apostles and Cyprian are not at one with St. Augus- 
tine and the Church, on the subject of baptism. If we are 
to follow St. Augustine, we must condemn the apostles and 
their rules, and the Nicene Council, with the preceding 
councils and fathers, and with St. Cyprian; on the other 
hand, if St. Cyprian and the apostles are right, then St. 
Augustine and the Church are wrong. Who is to preach 
and taptize meanwhile, until we are at one in this matter ? 
The papists boast the canons of the apostles and councils, 
together with the fathers, against us, and some of them are 
incorporated in Gratian's Canon Law, as a token. But sup- 
pose that the dam were to break, and some of these canons 
and councils were found heretical, as this one about rebap- 
tism is, who could then prevent the flood from rolling over 
us and crying, in its roar, "You lie in everything that you 
write, say, print, spit, and shout; no one can believe a word 
of it, even though you bring forward councils, fathers, and 
apostles in proof of it." 

Meanwhile, we cull out of the fathers and councils what 
we like ; they what they like ; and we cannot come to agree- 
ment, because the fathers are not in agreement any more 
than the councils are. Dear sir, who is to preach in the 
meantime to the poor souls who know nothing of this cull- 
ing and quarreling? Is it feeding Christ's sheep, when we 
do not know whether we are giving them grass or poison, 
hay or dung? We are to be doubtful and uncertain until 
it is settled, and a council decides it ! Ah, what poor provision 
Christ made for His Church, if that is the way things were 

1 "Prove all tilings; hold fast to that which is good." 

On the Councils and the Churches 169 

to go ! No, it must go otherwise than we pretend to prove 
from councils and fathers; or else there must have been 
no Church since the time of the apostles; and this is not pos- 
sible, for there stand the words, "I believe one holy, Chris- 
tian Church" and "I am with you, even unto the end of the Matt 
world." The Man must be called Egoveritas; 1 fathers 28: 20 
and councils, compared with Him, must be called O m n i s 
homo mendax, 3 if they contradict each other. 

I say these things, not for the sake of our own people, 
whom I will show, after a while, what councils, fathers, and 
Church are, if they do not know it already, which may God 
forbid! But I am speaking for the sake of the shouters, 
who think nothing else than that we have not read the 
fathers and councils. To be sure, I have not read all the 
councils, and shall not read them all and lose all that time and 
effort, since I have read the four chief councils thoroughly, 
better than any of them have done. Also I make bold to 
say that, after the four chief councils, I will hold all the 
others of small value, even though I would hold some of 
them to be good. The fathers, I hope, are better known to 
me than to these shouters, who pinch out of them what they 
want and let the rest go, because it annoys them. There- 
fore we must go at the business another way. 

Why do we quarrel? If we would harmonize the sayings p e tcr 
of the fathers, let us take up the Magister senten- 
t i a r u m . a In this work he was diligent beyond measure 
and went far ahead of us ; for he, too, -had this same diffi- 
culty with the lack of agreement in the fathers and wanted 
to remedy it, and, in my opinion, he did it better than we 
would. In no council, nor in all the councils, and in none 
of the fathers will you find as much as in the book of 
Sentences. The fathers and councils deal with some 
points of Christian doctrine, but none of them deals with 
them all, as this man does; at least he deals with most of 
them. But concerning the real articles, faith and justifica- 
tion, what he says is too thin and weak, though he gives 

! "I am the truth." a "Every man a liar." Cf. Rom 3:4. 

8 Peter Lombard (d. 1164). His Four Books of Sentences Was 
the great Geological textbook of the Middle Ages and the basis of most of the 
great systems of scholastic theology. 

170 On the Councils and the Churches 

high enough praise to the grace of God. As was said above, 1 
we can allow that Gratian has worked for us at the harmon- 
izing of the councils, in which he went to great pains; but 
his teaching is not as pure as that of the M a g i s t e r 
sententiarum, for he gives too much to the Roman 
bishop and applies everything to him; otherwise he would, 
perhaps, have done better with the harmonizing of the coun- 
cils than we now could do. 

If anyone would see still farther that the dear holy fathers 
were men, let him read the little book on the four chapters 
to the Corinthians by Dr. Pommer, 3 our pastor. From it 
he must learn that St. Augustine was right, when he said 
Noli m e i s etc., as we said above, 8 viz., that he will not 
believe any of the fathers unless he has the Scriptures on 
his side. Dear Lord God! If the Christian faith were to 
depend on men, and be founded in human words, what were 
the need for the Holy Scriptures, or why has God given 
them? Let us throw them under the bench and lay the 
councils and the fathers on the desk instead! Or, if the 
fathers were not men, how shall we men be saved ? If they 
were men, they must also have thought, spoken, and acted 
sometimes as we think, speak and act, and then said, like us, 
the prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses" ; especially since they 
have not the promise of the Spirit, like the apostles, and 
must be pupils of the apostles. 

If the Holy Ghost had been so silly as to expect or trust 
ftgft fa t councils and fathers would do everything well and 
Scrip- make no mistakes, He would have had no need to warn His 
tar Church, before their time, that it should prove and examine 
all things and that men would build straw, hay, wood on the 
i Cor. foundation. By this He foretells, not privately and feebly, 
3:12 but publicly and mightily, that in the holy Church there 
would be some builders of wood, straw, hay, i.e., teachers, 
who, although they would stay on the foundation, would 
suffer loss by fire, but would have to be saved. This cannot 

* See above, p. 143 f. 

*Joim Btigenliagen, known as Pomerantis, from the place of his origin. His 
Commentary on Four Chapters of the First Epistle to 
the Corinthians 'was published in 1550. 

*Seep. 148. 

On the Councils and the Churches 171 

be understood to mean the heretics, for they lay another 
foundation, but these stay on the foundation, i.e., in the faith 
of Christ, are saved, and are called God's saints, and yet they 
have hay, straw, wood, which must be burned by the fire of 
Holy Scripture, though without injury to their salvation. 
So St. Augustine says of himself, Errare potero; 
hereticus non e r o , "I can err, but I shall not be a 
heretic/' for the reason that heretics not only err, but will 
not let themselves be corrected, defend their error as though 
it were right, and strive against known truth and their own 
consciences. Of them St. Paul says, in Titus iii, "A heretic *Bt. 3:io 
shalt thou avoid, after one or two admonitions, and know 
that such a one is perverted and sins aut okatakr i tos , 
i.e., he remains condemned in obstinate and conscious error. 
But St. Augustine will confess his error willingly and allow 
himself to be told of it; therefore he cannot be a heretic, 
even though he were guilty of error. All the other saints 
do likewise and are willing to put their hay, straw, and 
wood into the fire, so that they may stay on the foundation 
of salvation, as we have done, and still do. 

Accordingly, since it cannot be otherwise with the fathers, 
I speak of the holy and good ones, and when they build 
without the Scriptures, i.e., without gold, silver, precious 
stones, they have to build wood, straw and hay; therefore 
we must follow the judgment of St. Paul, and know how to 
distinguish between gold and wood, silver and straw, precious 
stones and hay. We must not let ourselves be forced by 
these unprofitable shouters to think wood and gold one and 
the same thing, silver and straw one thing, emeralds and hay 
one thing. We ought to ask them (if it could be done) that 
they first make themselves so clever as to take wood for 
gold, straw for silver, hay for pearls. Until then they ought 
to spare us, and not ascribe to us such folly or childishness. 

All of us ought also to observe this wonderful thing about 
the Holy Ghost, He willed to give the world all the books 
of Holy Scripture, both of the Old and New Testaments, 
out of the people of Abraham and through his seed, and He 
would not have one of them written by us Gentiles, any 

172 On the Councils and the Churches 

more than He would choose the prophets and apostles from 

Rom. 3:2 among the Gentiles. So St. Paul says, in Romans iii, "The 
Jews h^Lve the great advantage that the speech of God was 

PS. 147: entrusted to them" ; and Psalm cxlvii says, "He made known 
19 His speech to Jacob and His laws to Israel" ; He hath not 

.. hn done so to any Gentiles ; and Christ Himself says, in John 

4:22 iv, "We know that salvation has come from the Jews" ; and 

Romans ix says, "Yours are the promise, the fathers, the 

Rom. 9:4 law and Christ." 

Therefore we Gentiles must not consider the writings of 
our fathers equal to Holy Scripture, but a little lower; for 
they are the children and heirs, we the guests and strangers, 

Matt. who have come to the children's table by grace, without any 
15:27 promise. Nay, we ought to thank God with humility and, 
like the Gentile woman, desire nothing more than to be the 
dogs who gather up the crumbs that fall from the master's 
table. As it is we go ahead and want to lift our fathers and 
ourselves up to the level of the apostles, not thinking that 
God might rather break us also to pieces, since He did not 

Rom. spare the natural branches, Abraham's seed, or heirs, because 
11:21 of their unbelief. Yet the accursed abomination at Rome 
wants to have power even over the apostles and prophets, 
and alter the Scriptures to suit himself ! Therefore Augus- 
tine is right, when he writes to St. Jerome, as was said 
above, 1 "I do not believe, dear brother, that you would have 
your writings considered equal to the books of the apostles 
and prophets; God forbid that you should desire such a 

Then, too, there is no council or father in which you can 
find, or from which you can learn, the whole of Christian 
Da Not doctrine. So the Nicene Council deals only with the doc- 
trine that Christ is true God ; the Council of Constantinople, 
that the Holy Ghost is God; the Council of Ephesus, that 
Christ is not two Persons, but one ; the Council of Chalcedon, 
that Christ has not one nature, but two, deity and humanity. 
These are the four great, chief councils, and they have 
nothing more for us than these points, as we shall hear ; but 

On the Councils and the Churches 173 

this is not the whole doctrine of Christian faith. St. Cyprian 
discusses how one is to suffer and die, firm in faith, rebaptizes 
heretics, and rebukes bad morals and the women. 1 St. Hilary* 
defends the Council of Nicaea and its statement that Christ 
is true God and discusses the Psalms a little. St. Jerome 
praises virginity- and the hermits. St. Chrysostom teaches 
prayer, fasting, almsgiving, patience, etc. St. Ambrose con- 
tains much, but St. Augustine most of all, and therefore the 
Magister sententiarum takes most material from 

In short, you may put them all together, both fathers and 
councils, and you cannot cull the whole doctrine of Christian 
faith out of them, though you keep on culling forever. If 
the Holy Scriptures had not made and preserved the Church, 
it would not have remained long because of the councils and 
fathers. As evidence let me ask, "Whence do the fathers 
and councils get" what they teach and discuss ? Think you 
that they were first discovered in their time or that the Holy 
Ghost was always giving them something new? How did 
the Church exist before these councils and fathers? Or 
were there no Christians before the rise of the councils and 
fathers? We must, therefore, speak differently of the coun- 
cils and fathers, and look, not at the letters, but the meaning. 

Let this suffice for the first part of this book! Let us 
catch our breath ! 

1 These are the subjects of some of his best-known writings. 
a Hilary of Poitiers, "the Athanasius of the West," died 367. 


^ First, Concerning the Councils. The 

of in- word concilium gives us stupid folk immeasurable 

terpre* difficulties, even more than the words "fathers" and 

tattoo "Church/* I would not be a judge and master here, but 

only express my ideas; if anyone else can do better, I wish 

him grace and luck. Amen. 

I take up the saying of St. Hilary's De trinitate, 1 
Ex causis dicendis summenda est intelli- 
gentia dictorum, i.e., "He who will understand what 
is said must see why or for what reasons it is said." Sic 
ex causis agendi cognoscuntur acta. 3 The 
natural reason teaches the same thing, but I will give a 
homely illustration of it. If one peasant accuses another 
and says, "Sir judge, this man calls me a knave and a 
rascal," these words and letters, by themselves, convey 
the idea that the accuser is suffering great wrong and that 
these things are false, and mere lies. But if the defendant 
comes and gives the reason for these words, and says, 
"Sir judge, he is a knave and a rascal, for he was 
beaten out of the town of N. with rods, because of his ras- 
cality and it was only with difficulty, by the request of good 
men, that he was kept from hanging, and he is trying to 
cheat me here in my own house"; then the judge will get 
a new understanding of the words, as daily experience in 
government shows. Before one learns the reason for what 
is said, it is only words and letters, or choristers' shouts, 8 or 
nuns* songs. 

tfefo So Christ says to. Peter, "What thou bindest on earth 
16:19 shall be bound in heaven, and what thou loosest shall be 
loosed." The pope takes these letters and goes with them into 
the land of the lotus-eaters, and interprets them thus : "What 
I do in heaven and earth is right ; I have the keys to bind and 
loose everything." Yes, even if we had eaten beets !* But if 
one looks at the reasons, one finds that Christ is speaking of 

1 Luther was apparently quoting from memory, Hilary's De trinitat*. 
ir, 2. Cf. Weimar Ed. L, 547, note a, 

* **So acts are known by the causes of action." 
*See above, p. 15S. 

* Probably a proverb. The allusion is vulgar. 


On the Councils and the Churches 175 

the binding and loosing of sin. The keys are keys to the 
kingdom o heaven, into which no one enters except through 
forgiveness of sin, and from which no one is excluded 
except those who are bound because of an impenitent life. 
Thus the words do not concern St. Peter's power, but the 
need of miserable sinners, or of proud sinners ; but of these 
keys the pope makes two master-keys to all kings' crowns 
and treasuries, to all the world's purse, body, honor, and 
goods. Like a fool he looks at the letters, and pays no 
heed to the reasons. 

Thus there are many sayings in the Scriptures which, 
taken literally are contradictory, but if the causes are shown, 
everything is right. I believe, too, that the medical men and 
the jurists find a very great deal of this in their books also, 
like what I said above about the judge. What, indeed, is 
the whole life of man, except mere antilogiae, or 
"contradictions," until one hears the causes. My antilogists, 
therefore, are great, fine, pious sows and asses. They collect 
my antilogies 1 and let the causes alone; nay, they darken the 
causes diligently, as though I could not also put forward an- 
tilogies, out of their books, which are not to be reconciled by 
any reasons. But enough of this! They are not worth so 
many words. 

We take up now the Council of Nicsea. It came into exis- 
tence for this reason. The noble Emperor Constantine had 
become a Christian and had given the Christians peace from 
their tyrants and persecutors. His faith was so great and for the 
earnest and his intentions were so heartily good, that he ^ Hma 
overthrew his own brother-in-law, Licinius, to whom he NScaa, 
had given his sister, Constantia, and whom he had made co- 
emperor, 1 and deposed him because, after many admoni- 
tions, he would not desist from his shameful persecution 
of Christians. 

Now when this fine emperor had made this peace for the 
Christians and done everything for their good, furthered 
the churches every way he could, and was so secure that 
he had the intention to go to war, outside the Empire, with 

1 ue., Ccmtradicticra*. 

Vol. V 12. 

176 On the Councils and the Churches 

the Persians : into this fair and peaceful paradise and peace- 
ful time, came the old serpent and raised up Arius, a priest 
of Alexandria, against his bishop. He wanted to bring up a 
new doctrine against the old faith and be a big man ; he at- 
tacked his bishop's doctrine, saying that Christ was not 
God; many priests and great, learned bishops lapsed to him 
and the trouble grew in many lands, until, at last, Arius ven- 
tured to declare that he was a martyr, saying that he was 
suffering for the truth's sake at the hands of his bishop, 
Alexander, who was not satisfied with this teaching and 
was writing scandalous letters against him to all countries. 
When this came to the good emperor's attention, he acted 
like a wise prince, and wanted to quench the flames before 
the fire became any greater. He wrote a letter to both 
Bishop Alexander and Priest Arius, and admonished them 
so kindly and earnestly that nothing better could have been 
written. He told them that, with great difficulty, he had 
made peace in the Empire for the Christians, and they ought 
not now to start contention among themselves. It would be 
a great stumbling-block to the heathen, and they would, 
perhaps, fall away from the faith again (as indeed hap- 
pened, and he complains of it), and he would be prevented 
from moving against the Persians. In short, it is a humble 
Christian letter from so great an emperor to these two men. 
In my opinion, it is almost too humble ; for knowing my own 
rough pen, I know that I could never have brought so hum- 
ble a composition out of my ink-bottle, especially if I had 
been an emperor, and such an emperor. 

This letter did not help, however. Arius had, by this 
time, gained a large following and wanted to go through 
headlong against his bishop. The good emperor did not 
desist either. He sent a personal ambassador, a great bishop, 
famous throughout the world, Hosius of Cordova in Spain, 
to Egypt, to the two in Alexandria, in order to settle the 
case. That did not help, either, and the fire spread as when 
a forest burns. Then the good emperor did the last thing 
possible. He had the best and most famous bishops gath- 
ered from all lands ; commanded that they were to be brought 

On the Councils and the Churches 177 

to Nicsea by the imperial asses, horses and mules ; and hoped 
through them, to settle the case peaceably. Truly, there 
assembled there many fine bishops and fathers; especially 
famous were Jacobus of Nisibis 1 and Paphnutius of Ptole- 
mais 3 who had suffered great affliction tinder Licinius and 
done miracles; but there were also some Arian bishops 
among them, like mouse-dirt in the pepper. 

The emperor was happy and hoped that the case would 
end well, and he entertained them honorably and well. Then 
some of them went ahead and brought the emperor schedules 
of accusation, telling what one bishop had against another; 
and they asked the emperor's decision. But he rejected them; 
he had nothing to do with the quarrels of the bishops, but 
only wanted a true judgment of this article about Christ 
and had not summoned the council because of their conten- 
tions. When they would not desist, he bade that all the 
schedules be brought to him, and read none of them, but 
threw them all into the fire. And yet he sent them away 
with kind words, saying that he could not be judge o those 
whom God had set as judges over him, and admonishing 
them to take hold of the chief matter. That is my idea of 
a wise, gentle, patient prince; another would have been 
angry at such bishops, and knocked the cask to pieces. At 
the same time, he showed what was in his mind, when he 
burned their petitions, without regard to their episcopal dig- 
nity, and so reminded them of their childish conduct, since 
they had been called together on a far more important 

When the council began, he sat down among the bishops 
on a chair lower than theirs* The bishop of Rome, Sylves- 
ter, was not present, but, as some say, he had sent two 
priests. After the bishop of Antioch, Eustathius, who pre- 
sided at the council, had thanked the emperor and praised 
him for his kindnesses, the doctrine of Anus was publicly 
read, for it seems that he was not present,* being neither a 

*A celebrated opponent o Arianism (d. 338). See Religion in Ge- 
schichte and Gegenwart, III, 243. 

a See above, p. 164. 

Both the Tri partita and Rufinus, Lather's chief sources, indicate that 
Arias was present. 

178 On the Councils and the Churches 

bishop nor a bishop's representative. It was to the effect 
that Christ was not God, but was created and made by God, 
as the histories further record. Then the holy fathers and 
bishops rose from their chairs in indignation and tore the 
schedule to pieces, and said it was not true. Thus Arius 
was publicly condemned by the council with great indigna- 
tion. So deeply were the fathers hurt and so intolerable 
was it for them to hear the blasphemy of this Arius ! All 
the bishops signed this condemnation, even the Arian bish- 
ops, though they did it with a false heart, as afterwards 
appeared, except two bishops from Egypt, who did not sign. 
Then the emperor dissolved the council that very day, and 
he and the council wrote letters throughout the world about 
this action ; and the Emperor Constantine was heartily glad 
that the case was settled and disposed of, and treated them 
most kindly, especially those who had suffered persecution. 
From this it is easy to see why the council came together 
and what it had to do ; namely, preserve the ancient article 
!. of faith, that Christ is true God, against the new wisdom of 
Arius, who wanted, on the basis of reason, to alter and 
condemn it; and he was himself condemned. The council 
did not discover this article or set it up as something that 

of Faith, was new and had not existed in the Church before, but only 
defended it against the heresy of Arius. This appears in 
the fact that the fathers were impatient and tore up the 
schedule, thus confessing that since the days of the apostles, 
they had learned and taught another doctrine in their 
churches. Otherwise what would have become of the Chris- 
tians who, frefore the council, for more than three hundred 
years, since the days of the apostles, had believed and had 
prayed to the dear Lord Jesus and called upon Him as true 
God, and had died for it and been miserably persecuted? 

I must point this out in passing. For the pope's syco- 
phants have fallen into such gross folly as to think that the 
councils have the power and right to set up new articles of 

Artie*** faith and to change old ones. That is not true, and we Chris- 
tians ought to tear up their schedules also. No councils 
hare done it or can do it," for articles of faith must not 

On the Councils and the Churches 179 

grow on earth, by means of the councils, as from some new, 
private inspiration, but they must be given and revealed from 
heaven by the Holy Ghost ; otherwise they are not articles of 
faith, as we shall hear later. So this Council of Nicsea, as I 
have said, did not invent this article that Christ is God or set 
it up as a new thing, but it was done by the Holy Ghost, who 
came from heaven upon the apostles publicly, on the day of 
Pentecost, and through the Scriptures revealed Christ as true 
God, as He had promised to the apostles. From the apos- 
tles it remained, and came down to this council, and so on 
down to us ; and it will remain till the end of the world, as 
He says, "Lo, I am with you unto the end of the world." 

If we had nothing with which to defend this article except 
this council, we should be in a bad way, and I myself should 
not believe the council, but say, "They are men." But St. 
John the Evangelist and St. Paul, Peter and the other apos- 
tles hold firm and give us a good foundation and defense, for 
to them it was revealed by the Holy Ghost, publicly given 
from heaven, and from them the Church had it, before this 
council, and the council, too, had it from them. Both before 
the council, when Arius first began, and in the council and 
after the council, they defended themselves hard with the 
Scriptures, especially with St. John's Gospel, and disputed 
sharply, as the books of Athanasius and Hilary bear wit- 
ness. So, too, the Historia Tripartita 1 says, iti 
Book v, chapter 29, "At Nicsea the faith was grounded on 
the Scriptures of the apostles." Otherwise, if the Holy 
Scriptures of the prophets and apostles had not done it, 
the mere words of the council would do nothing and its deci- 
sions accomplish nothing. 

This article, then, concerning the deity of Christ, is the 
main thing about this council, nay, it is the whole council. 
It was the reason for the calling of the council, and on the 
day that it was adopted, as I said, the c6uncil was dissolved, 

Om aiK>fcfaer day, however, when the Emperor Constantine 
is mot repotted to have been present, they came together again 
and discussed other matters, which concerned the external, 

p. 164, note. 

180 On the Councils and the Churches 

temporal government of the Church. Among them, beyond 
doubt, were the things contained in the schedules that Con- 
stantine had previously thrown into the fire, when he would 
not be a judge; therefore they had to come together and 
settle these things for themselves, without the emperor. 
The greater part of them is merely priests' quarreling: 
there are not to be two bishops in one city ; no bishop of a 
small church is to be ambitious for a greater one; clerics, 
or servants of a church, are not to leave their own church 
and slip hither and thither among other churches ; no one is 
to ordain the people of any bishop without his kowledge and 
consent ; no bishop is to accept a man who has been expelled 
by another bishop; the bishop of Jerusalem is to retain his 
ancient privilege of dignity above others 1 ; and more of that 
kind of talk. Who can hold these things for articles of 
faith? What of them can one preach to the people in the 
Church? What difference do these things make to Church 
or people? Unless, of course, they are to be treated as a 
history from which one can learn that at that time, too, there 
were everywhere in the Church self-willed, wicked, dis- 
orderly bishops, priests, clergy, and people, who were more 
concerned about honors and power and wealth than about 
God and His kingdom, and that people needed to be on their 
guard against them. 

It is easy to reckon that Constantine did not assemble the 
council because of these things, or he would have done it 
even before the Arian misery began. Why should he worry 
about how these things were done? They were all things 
that the bishops had to control for themselves, each in his 
own church, as they had done before and as the articles 
themselves declare. It would have been a sin and a shame to 
assemble so great a council for such little matters ; for our 
human reason, which God has given us, is sufficient for the 
ordering of these external things, and there is no need for the 
Holy Ghost, who is to reveal Christ, to turn aside into these 
matters, which are subject to the reason ; unless, of course, 
one wants to call everything that Christian people do, even 

1 These are the subjects of the canons of Nicaca. CL Nicenc Fathers. 
XIV, pp*. 8 & 

On the Councils and the Churches 181 

eating and drinking, the work of the Holy Ghost. Other- 
wise the Holy Ghost, because of His teaching, must have 
other things to do than these external works, subject to the 

Moreover all of those who were at this council were not 
good men ; they were not all Paphnutii, Jacobs, and Eustathii. 
Seventeen Arian bishops were counted among them, though 
they had to bow and dissemble before the others. The 
History of Theodoret 1 says there were twenty articles, 3 
Rufinus makes them twenty-three. Now whether the Arians 
or others afterwards added to the number or subtracted 
from them or set up other articles (for the one which St. 
Paphnutius is said to have prevented, concerning the wives 
of priests, is not included) I cannot say. I do know, how- 
ever, that all these articles have been long dead and buried 
in the books and gone to decay ; also that they can never rise 
again, as Constantine meant and prophesied by his action 
when he threw them into the fire and burned them. For they 
are not kept and cannot be kept. It was building hay, straw, 
wood (as St. Paul says) on the foundation; therefore, in r 
time, the fire consumed them, as other temporal, transient 
things pass away. But if they had been articles of faith or 
commandments of God, they would have remained, like the 
article concerning the deity of Christ. 

And yet, among these wooden articles, there is one in 
which a spark of fire has remained until now. It is the Th 
article about the Easter date. 8 To be sure, we do not keep 
this article quite correctly, as the mathematicians or astrono- 
mers prove to us, since the equinox in our time is quite dif- 
ferent than in that time/ and our Easter is often kept too 
late in the year. In ancient days, right after the apostles, the 
dispute over the Easter date began, and the bishops made 
heretics of one another and excommunicated one another over 

1 One of the sources of the Tripartita. 

9 i.e., Canons, or decisions. 

*The agreement on the Roman Easter date is not embodied in the canons of 
the Council, but announced in the Synodal Letter. (Nicene Fathers, XIV, 
p, 54.) 

* Until the introduction of the Gregorian calendar (1582) the eouinox was 
moving forward at the rate of one day in 128 years. See Encycl, Brit. 
(14th eC>, 4 569 ff. 

182 On the Councils and the Churches 

such little, unnecessary matters, until it was a sin and a 
shame. Some wanted to keep it, like the Jews, on a certain day 
according to the law of Moses ; the rest, in order not to be 
considered Jewish, wanted to keep the Sunday after. The 
bishop of Rome, Victor, about a hundred and eighty years 
before this council, 1 who also became a martyr, excommuni- 
cated all the bishops and churches in Asia, because they did 
not keep Easter as he did ; so early did the Roman bishops 
grasp at majesty and power! But Irenseus,* bishop of 
Lyons, in France, who had known Polycarp, 3 a disciple of 
St. John the Evangelist, rebuked him and quieted the case, 
so that Victor had to be content. Therefore Constantine had 
to take up this matter and help settle it in the council ; and he 
decreed that the same Easter date should be kept through- 
out the world ; see the T r i p a r t i t a , book ix, chapter 38. 
Now there is need for a reformation ; the calendar should 
be corrected and Easter put farther back, where it belongs. 
But no one can do this except their high majesties, the em- 
perors and kings. They would have to agree to send out a 
command to all the world at the same time, saying when 
Easter should henceforth be kept. Otherwise, if one land 
were to begin without another, and worldly trade, such as 
yearly markets, fairs, and other business, were to be gov- 
erned by the present date, the people of that land would get 
to the markets of another land at the wrong" time and there 
would be a wild confusion and disturbance in affairs of every 
kind. But it would be a fine thing, and easy to do, if their 
high majesties would do it, since it has all been finely worked 
out by the astronomers, and all that is needed is a decree or 
command. Meanwhile we keep the glimmering ember of 
the Nicene Council, that Easter remains on a Sunday, 
though the time see-saw as it may. These are called f e s t a 
m o b i 1 i a*; I call them see-saw festivals, 5 for Easter, with 
its dependent festivals, changes every year, coming now 

1 Victor waa 

'IraawQs was bishop of Lyons after 177. 

1 PoJyoarp, bishop o Smyrna, died as a martyr in 155. 

* Movable festivals. 

On the Councils and the Churches 183 

early, now late in the year, and does not stay fixed, like 
other festivals, upon a certain day. 

This see-sawing of the festivals comes about because the 
ancient fathers (as I said), right at the beginning, wanted 
to keep Easter at the time that Moses established, viz., in the 
full moon of March nearest the equinox; and yet they did 
not want to judaize entirely, or keep Easter, with the Jews, 
on the day of the full moon; therefore, as Christians, they 
let the law of Moses go and took the Sunday after the full 
moon of March. So it happened last year, 1538, that the 
Jews kept their Easter on the Saturday after Invocavit, 1 as 
our churches call it; that was five weeks before we kept 
Easter. Now the Jews laugh at that and make fun of us 
Christians, saying that we do not keep Easter right, and 
do not even know how to keep it right. Thus they strengthen 
themselves in their unbelief. That irritates our people, so 
that they would gladly see the calendar corrected by the 
high majesties, since without their co-operation it is not 
possible, still less advisable. 

In my opinion, however, the thing has happened with 
Easter that Christ speaks of in Matthew ix, "If one patches Matt - 
an old coat with new cloth, the rent becomes worse; and if 
one puts new wine into old, bad casks, the old hoops are 
sprung and the new wine leaks out." They want to keep 
one piece of the old law of Moses ; namely, that the March 
full moon is to be observed: that is the old coat. Then, as 
Christians, freed by Christ from the law of Moses, they do 
not want to be subject to the day o the full moon, but would 
have the following Sunday instead : that is the new patch on 
the old coat. Therefore the endless contention and the 
endless see-sawing have made so much trouble in the Church, 
and must do so till the end of the world, and there can be 
neither measure nor end to the books about it. Christ has had 
special reasons for permitting this and letting it go on, for 
He always proves His strength in weakness, and teaches tis 
to recogmize how weak we are. 

How much better it would have been, if they had let 

* The first Smfoy of Lent. 

184 On the Councils and the Churches 

Moses* Easter law die altogether and had kept none of the 
old coat at all! For Christ, toward whom this law was 
directed, has clean abolished it by His Passion and Resur- 
rection ; He slew it and buried it forever, rent the veil of the 
Temple in twain, and then broke and destroyed Jerusalem, 
with priesthood, princedom, law, and everything. Instead, 
they should have noted the days of the Passion, the Burial, 
and the Resurrection, reckoned by the sun, and set a fixed 
date in the calendar, as they did with Christmas, New Year, 
the Day of the Holy Kings, 1 Candlemas, 3 the Annunciation, 8 
the Feast of St. John, 4 and other days, which are called fixed 
festivals, not see-saw festivals. Then it would have been 
known for certain, every year, when Easter must come, and 
the festivals that depend on it, without this great bother and 

Nay, you say, Sunday must be held in honor because of 
Christ's Resurrection, and it is called dies dominica, 5 
on that account, and Easter must be put on it, because Christ 
rose on the day after the Sabbath, which we now call Sat- 
urday. That is, indeed, an argument that moved them ; but 
dies dominica does not mean Sunday, but "Lord's 
Day, 5 * and why could not any day on which Easter had 
come be called dies dominica, "the Lord's Day"? 
Is not Christmas also dies dominica, "Lord's Day," 
i.e., the day on which the Lord's special act, His birth, was 
done; and yet it does not come, every year, on Sunday? It 
is called Christ's Day, 8 i.e., the Lord's Day, even if it comes 
on Friday, for the reason that it has a fixed letter in the 
calendar, reckoned by the sun. In the same way, Easter, 
too, could have a fixed letter T in the calendar, whether it 
came on Friday or Wednesday, as is the case with Christ- 
mas. That way we should be well rid of the law of Moses, 
with its March full moon. No one asks today whether the 

1 Egipbany, Jan. 6. 

3 Ptarntcation of Mary (Presentation of our Lord), FeK 2. 

March 25. 

* St. John tbe Baptist, Jme 24. 

* 'The Lord's Day." 
Gernan, Ckriattag. 

T In the calendar of Luther's time, each day Bad a letter. Beginning January 
l r ttr k#er* ran from A to G, and repeated. 

On the Councils and the Churches 185 

moon Is full or not on Christmas, but we stick to the days 
reckoned by the sun without reckoning by the moon. 

It might be argued that, since the equinox holds its place, 
but the year, in the calendar, is too late and does not keep 
pace with it, the equinox would be farther and farther from, 
a fixed Easter day, as it would also be farther and farther 
from the Day of St. Philip and St. James,* and from other 
festivals. What do we Christians care if our Easter came 
on the Day of St. Philip and St. James, which will not 
happen, I hope, before the end of the world? Moreover, 
we hold all days as Easter days, with our preaching and our 
faith in Christ, and it is enough that Easter be kept once in 
a year on a special day, as a plain and public and perceptible 
reminder, not only because one can then discuss the history 
of the Resurrection more diligently before the people, but 
also in order that people may arrange their business affairs 
according to the season of year, just as we have the seasons 
of St. Michael, 3 St. Martin, 8 St. Catherine,* St. John/ Sts. 
Peter and Paul, 6 etc. 

But the possibility of making this arrangement has long 
been denied us, even from the beginning, because the fathers 
did not do it. The old coat has stayed, along with its big 
rent, and it may continue to ^6ay this way till the Last Day. 
Things are going toward their end, and if the old coat has 
stood the patching and tearing for around fourteen hundred 
years, It can stand the patching and tearing for another hun- 
dred; for I hope that everything will soon have an end. 
Easter has now been see-sawing for about fourteen hun- 
dred years, and it may keep on see-sawing for the short 
time that is left, since no one will do anything about it, and 
those who would like to do something cannot. 

I am indulging in this long and needless talk, only so that 
I may have expressed my opinion, in case any of the sects 
were, in time, to be bold enough to move the Easter festi- 
val to another date than that which we now observe. And 

1 May 1. * Nor. II. * June 24. 

29. * Nov 26. * Jtme 29. 

186 On the Councils and the Churches 

I believe that if the Anabaptists had been learned enough in 
astronomy to understand this matter, they would have 
rushed in headlong and, after the fashion of sects, have 
wanted to bring something new into the world, and keep 
Easter differently from the rest of the world. But since 
they are unlearned in the sciences, the devil has not been 
able to use them as that kind of instrument or tool. 

Therefore my advice is to let it alone and let it be kept as 
it now is, and patch and tear the old coat, and let Easter 
see-saw back and forth until the Last Day, or until the 
monarchs agree to change it together, in view of these facts. 
It breaks no one's legs and St. Peter's boat will not be hurt 
by it, since it is neither heresy nor sin, but only a solecism, 
or error, in astronomy, which serves the temporal govern- 
ment rather than the Church, though the ancient fathers, in 
ignorance, thought otherwise arid made heretics of one an- 
other and excommunicated one another over it. If the Jews 
laugh at us, thinking that we do this in ignorance, we laugh 
back still more, because they keep their Easter so stiffly and 
so vainly, not knowing that Christ fulfilled it all fifteen hun- 
dred years ago, abolished it and destroyed it. What we do 
is done wilfully and knowingly, and not in ignorance. We 
know better than they how Easter should be kept according 
to the law of Moses, but we will not and ought not keep it 
so, for we have the Lord of Moses and of all things, and He 
says, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." How much 
more is He Lord of Easter and Pentecost, which, in the law 
of Moses, are less than the Sabbath, for the Sabbath is on 
the tables of Moses, 1 while Easter and Pentecost are else- 

4:io where than on the tables. Moreover, we have St. Paul, who 
flatly forbids anyone to be bound to the holidays, feasts and 

2:16 anniversaries of Moses. 

Therefore it is t and ought to be, in our power and free- 
dom to keep Easter when we will ; and even though we made 
a Sunday of a Friday or vice versa, nevertheless it would 
be right, so long as it were done in agreement by the rulers 

1 ie., The two tables,, the Decalog. 

On the Councils and the Churches 187 

and the Christians, as I have said. Moses is dead and buried 
through Christ, and days or times ought not be lords over 
Christians, but Christians are free lords over days and 
times, to fix them as they will, or as seems right to them. 
Christ made all things free when He abolished Moses ; only 
we let things remain as they are, since there is no peril, 
error, sin, or heresy in it, and we would not change anything 
needlessly or at our own individual whim, because of others 
who also hold to Easter as well as we. We know that we 
can be saved without Easter and Pentecost, Sunday and Fri- 
day, and that we cannot be damned because of Ea&ter, Pen- 
tecost, Sunday, or Friday, as St. Paul teaches us. 

But to come back to the council, I say that we make too 
much of this chip of the Nicene Council, and the pope 
afterwards made it not only gold, silver, precious stones, but 
even a foundation, i.e., an article of faith, without which we 
cannot be saved, and they all call it a commandment and an 
act of obedience to the Church; thus they are far worse than 
the Jews. The Jews have on their side the text of Moses, 
commanded at that time by God; but these people have on 
their side only their own opinions. They go ahead and want 
to make a new coat out of Moses' old rags. They allege that 
they are keeping Moses, and yet their case is nothing but a 
story, or dream, about Moses, who has been dead so long, 
and was buried, as the Scriptures say, by God Himself 
i.e., by Christ, so that no one has found his grave; they 
would conjure up Moses before our eyes, as though he were 
alive, and do not see that (as St Paul says in Galatians v) GO, 
if they keep one part of Moses, they must keep the whole of 
Moses. Therefore, if they consider it necessary to keep Eas- 
ter in the month of March, as a part of his law, they must 
also keep the whole law of the paschal lamb and become mere 
Jews and keep, with the Jews, a bodily paschal lamb; if not, 
they must let it all go, the full moon, too, with all the rest 
of Moses, or at least, they must not consider it necessary to 
salvation, like an article of faith. And this is what I believe 
that the fathers, especially the best of them, did in this 

188 On the Councils and the Churches 

This council, then, dealt chiefly with the article that 
Christ is true God. It was for this that it was summoned 
and because of this it is called a council. Beside this, they 
dealt with certain accidental, physical, external, temporal 
matters, which it is right to consider worldly, not compar- 
able with the articles of faith, and not to be kept as a per- 
manent law, for they have passed and fallen out of use. The 
council had to arrange these bodily matters also, for at their 
time they were appropriate and necessary ; but they no longer 
concern us, in our time, at all, and it is neither possible nor 
profitable for us to keep them. As an evidence, it is false 
and wrong that heretics are to be rebaptized, and yet this 
article was established by the fathers themselves 1 and not 
patched in by the Arians or the other worthless bishops. 

Thus the Council of Jerusalem,* also, beside the main 
points, had to dispose of some non-essential, external arti- 
cles, which were necessary at that time, about blood, things 
strangled, and idolatry ; but not with the intention that this 
should remain in the Church as a permanent law, like an 
article of faith, for it has fallen. Why should we not take 
a look at this council, too, and see how it is to be under- 
stood by the causes that forced it into existence? 

This was the cause of it. The Gentiles, who were con- 
verted by Barnabas and Paul, had, by the Gospel, received 
the Holy Ghost, as well as the Jews, and yet they were not 
under the law, like the Jews. Then the Jews insisted 
council stron g]y t^t the Gentiles must be circumcised and bidden 
to keep the law of Moses, or they could not be saved. These 
were hard, sharp, heavy words, they could not be saved 
without the law of Moses and circumcision. The Pharisees 
who had become believers in Christ insisted on this more 
than the others, according to Acts xv. Then the apostles 
and elders came together about this matter, and when they 
had disputed much and sharply, St. Peter rose and preached 
the powerful and beautiful sermon of Acts xv, 7-11, 
**Dear brethren, ye know how that God chose that through 

*Cf. above, p. 166. 

a With this whole section comjfeire above, pp. 150 ff. 

On the Councils and the Churches 189 

my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel 
and believe; and God, the knower of hearts, bare them wit- 
ness and gave them the Holy Ghost, even as unto us, and 
made no difference between us and them, and purified their 
hearts by faith. Why, then, do ye now tempt God by laying 
a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our 
fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that 
through the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, 
in like manner as they." 

This sermon sounds almost as though St. Peter were 
angry and displeased at the hard words of the Pharisees, 
who said that they could not be saved if they were not cir- 
cumcised and did not keep the law of Moses, as I said above. 
He gives them back hard and sharp words and says, "Ye 
know well that they heard the Word by me and such people 
as Cornelius and his household became believers, and, as 
proof, 1 you grumbled against me and accused me, because I A * 3 
had gone to the Gentiles and converted and baptized them j 
(Acts x and xi). What, have you forgotten that when you 
would lay upon the Gentiles a yoke that neither our fathers 
nor we could carry? What is it but tempting God, if we 
lay on others an unnecessary burden, which we ourselves 
cannot bear any more than they ? Especially since you know 
that God has given them the Spirit without this burden and 
made them equal to us, after we, too, have received the 
same Spirit, not because of the burden of good works, but 
out of grace, as was the case with our fathers also. For 
since we have been unable to bear the burden, we have de- 
served wrath far more than grace, because it was our duty 
to bear it and we had obligated ourselves to do so." 

This is the substance and main affair of this council, viz., Grace 
the fact that the Pharisees wanted to set up, against the * 
word of grace, the works, or merits, of the law, as neces- 
sary to salvation. That way, the word of grace would have 
gone to nothing, together with Christ and the Holy Ghost. 
Therefore St. Peter fights it and argues against it so hard, 
and will have men saved entirely by the grace of Jesus 

1 ke-, That Peter had taken the Gospel to the Gentiles. 

190 On the Councils and the Churches 

Christ alone, without any works. Not satisfied with that, 
he was so bold as to say that all their fathers, patriarchs, 
prophets, and the entire holy Church in Israel had been 
saved only by the grace of Jesus Christ and nothing else 
and been condemned only because they had tempted God 
by wanting to be saved by other means. I think we can call 
this real preaching, and knocking the bottom out of the 
cask ! Ought not this heretic be burned to death ? He for- 
bids all good works and holds that grace and faith are 
alone sufficient for salvation, and always has been, in the 
case of all the saints and all the ancestors of all the world. 
We must needs be called heretics and devils now, because 
we teach nothing else than this sermon of St. Peter's and 
the decree of this council, as all the world now knows better 
than did the Pharisees whom St. Peter here rebuked. 

But St. Peter is far above us, and a strange man indeed, 
to preach only the grace of God unto salvation, which every- 
body hears gladly. He also says, that neither they them- 
selves nor their fathers have been able to bear this burden. 
That is as much as to say, in good German, "We apostles, 
and whoever we are, together with our ancestors, patri- 
archs, prophets, and the whole people of God, have not kept 
God's commandments, are sinners, and are damned." He 
is not speaking of blood-sausage or black jelly, but of the law 
John of Moses > a 11 ^ he says, "No one has kept it, or can keep it" ; 
7:19 as Christ says, in John vii, "None of you keepeth the law." 
That, in my opinion, is preaching the law unto damnation, 
and making himself a condemned sinner ! How does it come, 
then, that the alleged heir of St. Peter's chair calls himself 
"Most Holy/' and elevates to saintship those whom he 
chooses because of their works, not because of the grace 
of Christ? And where do the monks stand, who bear a 
burden heavier than that of the law, 1 so that they can sell 9 
their surplus holiness? We have no such queer folk as 
Peter, for we dare not hold the patriarchs, prophets, apos- 

s i,e-, Who do more than the law commands and thus acquire superfluous 
merit, throtigh works of supererogation. 

,. ,_ , J * *k< indulgences, which were based on the superfluous merits 

of Christ and the saints. 

On the Councils and the Churches 191 

ties, and the holy Church as sinners, but must call even 
the pope "Most Holy" and "Saint of Saints/* i.e., Christ. 

But St. Peter deserves a very gracious and honorable ab- 
solution and is not to be considered queer at all ; for in this 
great article, he preaches, first, the law, that we all are 
sinners ; second, that only the grace of Christ saves us, even 
the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and the entire holy 
Church from the beginning, all of whom he makes sinners 
and condemned men. In the third place, long before the 
Council of Nicsea, he teaches that Christ is true God. For 
he says that all the saints must be lost, if they are not saved 
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. To bestow grace 
and salvation, as Lord, He must be true God, who can 
take away sin by grace, and death and hell by salvation. 
This no creature will do, unless it were the "Most Holy*' at 
Rome, though without injury to St. Peter's sermon. In the 
fourth place, he who holds otherwise, and teaches that sin- 
ners can be saved or obtain grace by the law or their own 
works, is a tempter of God. 

It may be said that this "burden" should be interpreted 
to mean the law of Moses and circumcision, not the Ten 
Commandments and good works. Let anyone interpret it so, 
if he please ; I am satisfied. If you can keep the Ten Com- 
mandments more easily tihan the Mosaic ceremonies, go on 
and be holier than Sts. Peter and Paul ; I am so weak in the 
Ten Commandments that I think it would be far easier for 
me to keep all the Mosaic ceremonies, if the Ten Command- 
ments did not weigh me down. But this is not the time to 
argue that point; it has been fully discussed, otherwise and 
elsewhere. 1 Even human reason must judge and admit, how- 
ever, that the Ten Commandments, or the works of the 
Ten Commandments, are not and cannot be called the grace 
of Jesus Christ, but are something altogether different, and 
must have another name. Now St. Peter says here that we 
must be saved through the grace of Jesus Christ; but grace 

*Prcfcably a reference to the controversy with the Antmomiana. See Wei- 
mar E d . L, 461 ff., and below in this same ^^^ 

VoL V13. 

192 On the Councils and the Churches 

cannot be received or held with the works of our hands, but 
with faith, in our hearts. That is certainly true. 

It is marvellous to see how St. Peter, who, as an apostle, 
had the right and power, together with other apostles, to set 
2:20 U p this article as something new, for which reason they are 
called the foundation of the Church, nevertheless goes back 
and cites the holy Church of God of former times, the 
Church of all the patriarchs and prophets, and as much as 
says, "This is not a new doctrine, for so all our ancestors 
and all the saints taught and believed. Why, then, do we 
undertake to teach another and better doctrine, thereby 
tempting God and leading our brethren's consciences astray, 
and burdening them?" 

That, I say, is the substance or chief thing in this coun- 
cil, for which it was called, or came together. When that 
was decided the council closed and everything was settled. 
But the papal ass does not see or heed this chief matter and 
gapes at the other four things that James adds, blood, 
things strangled, idolatry, and fornication. By so doing, 
they hope to strengthen their tyranny, and they allege that 
since the Church has changed these articles, they have power 
to chang;e the articles of faith and the councils ; that is to 
say, "We are the Church, we can decree and do what we 
please." Listen, papal ass ! You are a plain ass ; nay, you 
are a filthy sow. The article of this council has not fallen 
and has not been changed, but has remained always, from 
the beginning, as St. Peter says, and will remain until the 
end of the world; for there have always been holy men, who 
have been saved only by the grace of Christ and not by the 
law. Even under the devil of the papacy, there have re- 
mained the text and the faith of the Gospel, baptism, the 
Sacrament, the keys, and the name of Jesus Christ, though 
the pope, with his accursed lies, has stormed against them 
and has shamefully misled the world. So, too, it was said 
of the Nicene Council, 1 that its decree existed before it and 
remained after it. The decrees of the true councils must 
remain forever, and they have always remained, especially 

1 Above, p. 179. 

On the Councils and the Churches 193 

the chief articles, because of which they came into existence 
and got the name of councils. 

What shall we say, however, about this council of the James 
apostles, when St. James makes exceptions of the four 
points, blood, things strangled, idolatry, and fornication? 
Is not the council contradicting itself, and is not the Holy 
Ghost in disagreement with Himself? The two speeches 
are plainly and palpably contradictory, not laying the bur- 
den of the law of Moses, and yet laying it. Play the sophist, 
if you will, and say that what was spoken of in the council 
was not the whole law of Moses, but portions of it some of 
which might be laid and others not laid upon the Gentiles. 
But that will not do; for St. Paul decides in Galatians v, 
that if a man keeps one part of the law, he is bound to keep 
the law entirely, and it is equivalent to acknowledging that 
one is bound to keep the whole law; otherwise one would 
pay no heed to it at all. Here, too, there would be new cloth 
on an old coat, and the rent would be worse. It is also 
evident that these points are in the law of Moses and no- 
where in the Gentiles' law. For where would have been 
the necessity to lay them upon the Gentiles, if they had 
already been accustomed to them in their native law? How, 
then, do we reconcile these two, no law and the whole law? 

Well, if we cannot make them agree, we must let St. 
James go with his article, and keep St. Peter with his chief 
article for the sake of which this council was held. With- 
out St. Peter's article, no one can be saved; but Cornelius 
and the Gentiles whom St. Peter had baptized, at his house 
along with him, were holy and saved before St. James came 
along with his article, as St. Peter says in this council. I 
touched the question above, 1 whether one may, with a good 
conscience, allow that these points have fallen, since the 
Holy Ghost rules the council and makes all these decrees; 
but it is a much more sharply disputed question, whether 
the council is against itself and disagrees with itself. While 
(desiring to relieve us of an impossible burden, it lays upon 
us a still more impossible one, when it says that we are, 

1 See pp. 153 fL 

194 On the Councils and the Churches 

at one and the same time, to do nothing and do everything. 
To be sure, now that it has fallen, we do well to stick to the 
one part, to St. Peter's articles, i.e., to the genuine Chris- 
tian faith. 

Only the commandment against fornication, which is the 
fourth point in St. James' article, has not fallen, though, to 
be sure, the courtesans 1 and condemned lords were on the 
way to let it fall twenty years ago, when they began to con- 
sider fornication not a mortal, but a venial sin, advocating 
the principle that nature must take its course; 2 and that 
is the way that the holy people at Rome still regard it. And 
the reason why these leaders of the blind took this view was 
that St. James puts fornication with the other three points 
that have fallen, from which they conclude that if the pro- 
hibition of blood, things strangled and idolatry no longer 
hold, then neither does the prohibition of fornication hold 
any longer, since it occurs among these others, and except 
for that, is a natural human act. Let them go; they are 
worthy of nothing better ! 

I shall state my opinion; let some one else improve on it! 
I have now said often that the councils are to be looked at 
and estimated from the point of view of the chief subject 
which gave occasion for the council. That is the council in 
essence,* the real body of the council, according to which all 
else is to be judged, and to which all else is to be fitted, 
as a garment fits the body that wears it, or has it on; if 
a man takes it off and throws it away, it is no longer a gar- 
ment. There cannot be a council or any other assembly, 
even a chapter or a diet, but what, after the chief business 
is settled, there are not one or two little, accidental matters 
to be patched up, or arranged. In the Nicene Council, when 
it had been settled that Christ is true God, there came in 
the external matters of the Easter date and the quarrels of 
the priests; and here, too, St. James' article comes in after 
the chief article of St. Peter. 

It was, then, the final opinion and decision of all the 

*ie, The members of the papal court at Rome. Cf. Vol II, p. 88, note 3 
*Natnra petit exitum. - *Ssbstantii liter . " 

On the Councils and the Churches 195 

apostles, and the council, that men must be saved, without 
the law or the burden of the law, only by the faith of Jesus 
Christ. When St. Peter, St. Paul and their party had 
gained this decision, they were happy and well satisfied, for 
it was according to this decision that they had worked, and 
had striven against the Pharisees and Jews who had become 
Christians and still wanted to retain the law. When St. 
James, then, added his article, they could put up with it, 
since this was not laid on the Gentiles as a law or burden of 
law, as the letter of the council announces :Nihil oneris, 
"We will therefore lay upon you no burden, except that ye 
abstain from blood," etc. Indeed, they might well have en- 
dured it, if St. James had added even more things, such as 
the rule about leprosy and the like ; and the Ten Command- 
ments remain, even without these things. These things, 
however, are to be no law or burden, say they, but things 
that are necessary for other reasons. But if a burden is no 
more a burden, it is good to bear; and if law is no longer 
law, it is good to keep, like the Ten Commandments, How 
much more is that true of ceremonies, especially if they are 
abolished or if very few are retained ! Of this more else- 
where! If the pope were to relieve us of his burden, so 
that it need no longer be law, we should readily obey him, 
especially if he were to retain a little of it and abolish the 
most of it. Therefore St. James and his article must endure 
an interpretation that makes St. Peter's article, concerning 
grace, without the law, to remain pure and firm and to rule 
alone, without the law. 

We shall also look at the reason for this side-issue of St. 
James*, in order that we may understand this council en- 
tirely. With the Jews the law o'f Moses was, so to speak, 
inborn ; it was suckled into them, made a part of them, in- 
grained in them from youth up, so that it became almost 
their very nature, as St. Paul says, in Galatians ii, "We are ^ 
Jews by nature," i.e., born Mosaic (for he Is speaking of 
the law and not only of birth) . Therefore they could not 
stand the life of the Gentiles, or endure it when they were 
compared with the the Gentiles among whom they were 

196 On the Councils and the Churches 

scattered in the lands, when they saw that the Gentiles ate 


Acta blood, things strangled, and meat offered to idols, and yet 

boasted that fliey were God's people, or Christians. This 
moved St. James to guard against this offense, so that the 
Gentiles might not abuse their freedom too wantonly, to 
spite the Jews, but act soberly, so that the Jews, so deeply 
saturated with the law might not be offended and therefore 
spit upon the Gospel. For, dear God, we must have patience 
with sick and erring men. Even we drunken Germans are 
sometimes wise and say, "A load of hay must make way 
for a drunken man." No one can win his spurs against 
sick people, or a master's degree over ignoramuses. 

And yet St. James acts quite soberly. He entirely dis- 
regards the whole law of Moses about sacrifice and all the 
other points that had to be observed in Jerusalem and Pal- 
estine, and takes up only the four points on which the Jews 
outside Jerusalem, among the Gentiles, took offense. For 
the Jews, dispersed among the Gentiles, had to see the way 
the Gentiles acted, had to live with them and, sometimes, eat 
with them. It was very annoying, and it was wrong, to set 
before a Jew blood-sausage, have cooked in blood, blood- 
jellies, and meat sacrificed to idols, especially if I knew that 
he could not endure it and must take it as an insult. It 
would be the same as though I were to say, "Listen, Jew ! 
Even though I could bring you to Christ, if I did not eat 
blood-sausage, or set it before you, I will not do it', but will 
scare you away from Christ and chase you to hell with blood- 
sausage." Would that be kind? I shall not ask if it would 
be Christian! Must not everyone often keep silence and 
not contradict another, when he sees and knows that things 
that he would speak and do would be to the other's injury, 
especially if it were against God? Now the Gentiles of these 
days were violent toward the Jews and very proud, because 
they were their lords; the Jews, in turn, were intolerant, 
because they thought that they alone were God's people. 
Many histories give powerful testimony to this. 

The good advice of St. James was, therefore, the very 
finest means to peace, and to the salvation of many. It 
was that the Gentiles, since they had now attained Christ's 

On the Councils and the Churches 197 

grace without the law and without merit, should show 
themselves helpful, in a few matters, to the Jews, as to sick 
and erring folk, in order that they also might come to the 
same grace. It did not harm the Gentiles in the eyes of 
God to avoid the public, open use of blood, things strangled, 
and meat sacrificed to idols (though in conscience they were 
already free, through grace, on all these points) and for the 
benefit and salvation of the Jews, to desist from giving 
wanton offense. In the absence of Jews, they could eat 
and drink what they pleased, without risk to conscience. The 
Jews, too, would likewise be free in conscience, but could 
not change the old external custom, for Consuetudo 
est altera natura, 1 especially when it has grown out 
of God's law. Thus fairness and reason also teach that one 
should not flout atid hinder others, but serve them and be 
helpful to them, according to the commandment, "Love thy GaL 5:14 
neighbor," etc. Peter 

These two articles, that of St. Peter and that of St. ?"* 


James, are, therefore, contradictory and not contradictory, 
St. Peter's article is about faith, St. James' about love. St. 
Peter's article suffers no law, eats blood, things strangled, 
meat sacrificed to idols, yes, and the devil, too, and gives no 
heed to it. 2 It deals with God, not with man, and does noth- 
ing but believe on the gracious God, St. James' article, 
however, lives and eats with men; it directs everything to 
the one purpose of bringing men to St. Peter's article, and 
guards diligently against hindering anyone. Now the office 
of love is so discharged on earth that the object of love, that 
which is loved and helped, is changeable and transient. Love 
cannot have the same object forever, but one object passes 
away, and another comes in its place. Thus love must con- 
tinue to love until the end of the world. When the Jews 
had been scattered, or became obdurate, and the Gentiles no 
longer had to practice love toward them, this whole article 
fell. It was not altered by the power of the Church, as the 
'papists lyingly declare, but since the cause of it was no 

1 "Custom is second nature." 
' a .Tbe sense is, "It pays no attention at all to foods." 

198 On the Councils and the Churches 

longer there, Christians freely ate blood and black jelly, 
from which they had for a time abstained on account of the 
Jews, and for their good, even though they had not been 
hound, in the eyes of God, to do so, because of their faith. 
If St. James had wanted to lay these points upon them as 
GiL 5*3 kw, he would have had to lay the whole law upon them, as 
St Paul says in Galatians v, "He that keeps one law must 
keep all." That would be flatly against St. Peter's article, 
which St. James approves. 

He puts fornication in among these things, however, 
though it remains condemned forever in the Ten Com- 
mandments; and this is the reason. Among the Gentiles, 
fornication was considered a small sin; nay, no sin at all. 
You read this in the books of the heathen, and twenty years 
ago, as I indicated above, 1 the courtesans and worthless 
priests began publicly to say and believe the same thing. 
Among the Gentiles, therefore, it was no greater sin to com- 
mit fornication than to eat blood-sausage, hares cooked in 
blood, blood-jellies, or meat sacrificed to idols. Read in the 
histories how unwilling the Romans were to take wives, so 
that the Emperor Augustus had to compel them to marry; 3 
for they thought that fornication was right and that their 
rights were violated when the attempt was made to compel 
them to marry. Therefore St. James would teach the Gen- 
tiles that, even without the compulsion of their rulers, they 
ought, of their own accord, to give up fornication and live 
in the married state, chastely and purely. This the Jews did, 
and they took grave offense at the freedom of fornication] 
and could not believe that the Gentiles could come to God's 
grace and become God's people, because of this difference 
in foods and in living. 

_ The apostles, therefore, did not lay the law upon the Gen- 

tiles, and yet they allowed it to the Jews for a time, preach- 

i Cor. ing grace boldly meanwhile. Thus we see that St. Paul when 

ctT amoa ^ J ews ' lived a 8 a J ew " wlien among the Gentiles, 
16:3 as a Genti k; so that he might win all. He circumcised his 

*Cf. p. 194, note. 

*By the Lex Papia Poppaea (9 B. C.) 


On the Councils and the Churches 199 

disciple, Timothy, who was already a believer, not because 
it must be so, but, as St. Luke says, for the sake of the Jews 
of the place, that he might not offend them. Afterwards, he Acts 
had himself purified in the Temple, with the Jews, and sac- 21:26 
rificed according to the law of Moses ; all which he did, as 
St. Augustine says in that fine and now famous word, 
Oportuit synagogam cum honore sepe- 
lire, 1 i.e., in order to bury Moses, or his church and law, 
with honor. 

How this council and the articles of both St. Peter and 
St. James were afterwards kept, you will discover abun- 
dantly in St. Paul's Epistles, in which he complains every- 
where about the false apostles, who insist on the law 
as a necessity to the detriment of grace, and seduce whole 
houses and countries, and lead them back to the law; and 
that under the name of Christ. 

After the Nicene Council the case was still worse. The Arfn* 
rascal Arius humbled himself and accepted the council in AftGf 
the presence of the Emperor Constantine, even with an oath, NicenA 
and therefore the emperor allowed him to come back. Then Council 
he began to fan the flames in earnest and the bishops of 
his party, especially after Constantine' s death, through his 
son, the Emperor Constantius, whom they had won over, 
played the game so horribly that throughout the world Con- 
stantius drove out all the true bishops, except two, Gregory 
and Basil. 3 Some say, here, that Constantine, the father, 
became an Arian before he died and in his will commended 
to his son, Constantius, an Arian priest who had been faith- 
fully commended to him by his sister, Constantia, on her 
death-bed, and that it was through him that the Arians 
afterwards became so powerful. 

Such histories warn us to pray for great lords, because the 
devil seeks them most of all, since he can do the greatest 
harm through them ; also that we ourselves are to be careful, 
and not readily to give credence to sectarian spirits, even if 

1 "It was right to give the synagogue an honorable funeral." The passage 
is not found in Augustine. 

"Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390), and Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea 
(370-79). Luther's information is not accurate. It rests on Rufirms and the 
Tripatrtita. Cf. SCHAEFER, L. als Kirchen histor iker, 277. 

200 On the Councils and the Churches 

they humble themselves as completely as this rascal Arius 
did. It is said, Aliquando compugnuntur et 
mali, 1 but they keep behind the hill till they get air and 
room/ and then they fall to, like Arius, and do the things 
that they had in mind before. I do not wonder greatly 
that the fathers laid such severe and lengthy penance on 
renegade Christians. They would have had experience with 
them, and would have known how false their humility was, 
and how hard it was for them to humble themselves to peni- 
tence sincerely and from their hearts, as Sirach also says, 
Ab inimico reconciliato, 8 etc. 

Briefly, if one does not know the meaning of o s c u 1 u m 
J u d a e , "a Judas-kiss," let him read the story of Arius 
under Constantine, and he will have to say that Arius went 
far beyond Judas. He deceived the good Emperor Con- 
stantine with these fair words, "We believe in one God, 
one Word, by Whom all things were made," etc. Tell me, 
what Christian could hold these words heretical, or think 
that Arius still held Christ to be a creature? But that 
became clear when he came to trial. In the same way 
Auxentius, bishop of Milan, the immediate predecessor of St. 
Ambrose, f ookd the people with such words that, on first 
impression I almost became angry at St. Hilary, when I 
read the words, Blasphemia Auxentii on the title 
page of Auxentius' Confessions.* I would have staked 
my body and soul on Auxentius' word that he held Christ- 
to be true God. I hope, too, that amid these blind and 
deceptive words, many good, simple folk remained by their 
former faith and were preserved in it, because they were 
unable to understand these words otherwise than as an ex- 
pression of the faith that had existed from the beginning. 

s VSometimes even the wicked are defeated." 

'i.e., They bide their time until their chance comes. 

"Never trust thine enemy: for like as iron rusteth, so is his wickedness. 
Though he humble himself and go crouching, yet take good heed and beware 
of him," Ecclesiasticus 12: 10, 11 (A. V.) 

*AtKentius (d. 374) was denounced as a heretic by Pope Damasus and de- 
dared deposed (370),^^ kept his bishopric until his death. Hilary of Poitiers 
published his conf ession of faith as an appendix to his Book Against 
the Arians, entitling it "An Illustration of the Blasphemy of Auxentius." 
Cf, Realencyk. Arts. Damasus, Hilarius v <x n Poitiers, 
and Weimar Ed. L, 570, note a., where he is mistakenly referred to as 
the successor of Ambrose. 

On the Councils and the Churches 201 

Indeed, no one could understand them otherwise unless he 
knew the private interpretation that the Arians gave them. 

Because it is so necessary for Christians to know this 
illustration, and because the ordinary reader of history does 
not examine it so closely and does not think how profitable 
it is as a warning against all other spirits of division, whom 
the devil, their god, makes so slippery that they can never 
be seized or grasped; for these reasons I shall briefly state 
this case, under a few heads. 

First, Arius taught that Christ was not God, but a creature. 
Then the good bishops extorted from him the confession iwtt 
that Christ was God like St. Peter and Paul and like the I Cor. 
angels who are called in the Scriptures "gods" and "Sons * 5 

of G f (* Corinthian s viii, John x, Psalm Ixxxii, Job io:34 

XXXviii). Ps. 82:6 

^ Secondly, When the fathers discovered this they forced Job 38:7 
him farther, until he and his followers granted that Christ 
was real and true God. They submitted to these words for 
the sake of appearances, since this had been the teaching 
theretofore in all the churches. Among themselves, how- 
ever, (and this is especially true of Eusebius of Nicomedia, 
Arius' chief patron) they interpreted these words as fol- 
lows: Omne factum dei est verum, "Every- 
thing created, or made, by God is true and real; what is 
false God has not made, therefore we are willing to confess 
that Christ is real, true God, though among ourselves we hold 
Him to be a made God, like Moses and all the saints." Here 
they admitted everything that we now sing on Sunday in 
the churches, since the Nicene Council, I>eumde deo, 
Lumen de lumine, Deum verum de deo 
v e r o / 

Thirdly, When this false trick came out, and it became 
known that, in spite of these words, they still held Christ 
to be a creature, the dispute became sharper until they had 
to confess that Christ had existed before the whole world. 
Who, then, could believe otherwise than that Arius and his 
bishops were true Christians and had been unjustly con- 

*"God of God, Light of light, Very God of very God." 

202 On the Councils and the Churches 

demned by the Nicene Council? This is what they were at 
soon after the Nicene Council, which had made short work 
of them and stated the faith as it was ; for they wanted to 
undo the Nicene Council, and attacked one point after 

Fourthly, This blind evasion was noticed, viz., that Christ 
was to be and be called a creature, though with the explana- 
tion that He was before all the world, i.e., He was created or 
made before all the world, or before all other creatures. 
CoL 1*5 /pj^ {key were compelled to confess that all the world and 
John I'S 3 ^ tirittg 8 were ma -de by Him, as John i says; yet among 
their own people they interpreted this to mean that Christ 
was first made, and then all things were made by Him. 

Fifthly, It was then easy for them to confess, g e n i t u m, 

j ofan non factum, 1 viz., that Christ was born of God, not 

1:12 created; born as all Christians, born of God, are sons of 

God (John i) ; not created among other creatures, but before 

all creatures. 

Sixthly, Then it came to the heart of the matter, viz., 
that Christ is homoousios 3 with the Father, i.e., that 
Christ is of one and the same deity with the Father, and 
has one and the same power. Then they could no longer 
find any trick or hole or scheme or hoax. Homoousios 
means "of one essence, or nature/' or "of the same and not 
of a second essence," as the fathers had decreed in the 
council, and as is sung in Latin, consubstantialis ; 
some afterwards said coexistentialis, coessen- 
t i a 1 i s . They had accepted this at Nicaea, in the council, 
and they still accepted it when they had to speak in the pres- 
ence of the emperor or of the fathers; but among them- 
selves they attacked it bitterly. They declared that this 
word was not in the Scriptures; they held many councils, 
even in Constantine's time, seeking to weaken the Council of 
Nicaea; they started much trouble. At last they made the 
hearts of our party so timid that even St. Jerome was per- 
plexed, and wrote a letter of complaint to Damasus, Bishop 

1 "Begotten, not made." 
8 "Of one substance. 5 ' 

On the Councils and the Churches 203 

of Rome, and began to ask that the word Homoousios 
be^ scratched out. "For/' he says, "there is some kind of 
poison in the letters, which makes them so objectionable to 
the Arians." 1 

There is a Dialog 3 still extant, in which Athanasius and 
Arius dispute before an official named Probus about this 
word Homoousios. When Arius insisted vigorously that 
this word was not in the Scriptures, Athanasius caught him 
in his own trap, and said, "Neither are these other words 
in the Scriptures, innascibilis, ingenitus Deus,* 
meaning "God is unborn*'; for these the Arians had used 
to prove that Christ could not be God, because He was born 
and God was unborn; and Probus decided against Arius. 
For while it is true that in matters concerning God nothing 
should be taught except the Scriptures (as St. Hilary says in 
his D e t r i n i t a t e*) , that means only that nothing should 
be taught that is different from the Scriptures. It cannot be 
held that one cannot use more words or other words than 
those that are in the Scriptures, especially in controversy. 
When the heretics would falsify the case with false evasions 
and pervert the words of Scripture, it was necessary to com- 
prise in a short word of summary the meaning, which the 
Scriptures put in many sayings, and ask whether they held 
Christ homoousios ; for this was the meaning of the 
Scriptures in all the words which they perverted, in their own 
circles, with false interpretations, but had freely confessed 
before the emperor and in the council. It is just as though 
the Pelagians were to try to entrap us with the words 
"original sin" or "Adam's^ague/* because these words 
do not occur in the Scriptures, and yet the Scriptures do 
powerfully teach what these words mean, saying that we are 
conceived in sin (Psalm li), are all by nature children Ps * 51i7 
of wrath (Ephesians ii), and must all be sinners because of EplL 2:3 
one man's sin (Romans v) . 


*The letter in Migne, 22, 356; Vienna, 54, 64. 

2 This dialog (Migne, 62, 155 ff.) passed in the sixteenth century as a 
work of Athanasius. Its author was Vigilus of Thapaus who lived at the end 
of the fifth centttry. Realencyk. 20, 640 ff. 

"Unborn; the nnbegotten God.** 

*De trin. I, 18. Nicene Fathers, be, 45. 

* A dams- cue he. 

204 On the Councils and the Churches 

Now tell me, if Arms were to come before you today and 
con ^ ess t ^ ae w ^^ e cree< i of the Nicene Council, as we sing it 
today in our churches, could you hold him a heretic? I 
myself would say that he was right. And suppose that under- 
neath it all he was a rascal and believed something different 
' and afterwards interpreted the words differently and taught 
differently; would I not have been finely deceived? There- 
fore I do not believe that Constantine became an Arian, 
but that he stuck by the Nicene Council. What happened to 
him was that he was deceived, and believed that Arius held 
just what the Nicene Council did. He demanded an oath 
from him to that effect, as was said above, 1 and then com- 
manded that they should receive him again in Alexandria. 
When Athanasius would not do this, because he knew the 
false Arius better than Constantine did, he had to be driven 
out; for it may well be that Constantine got the idea that 
Arius, this good Christian, had been condemned at Nicaea 
out of envy or jealousy, especially since the Arians, Eusebius 
of Nicomedia above all, espoused his cause with the emperor, 
filled his ears with stories, and glorified Arius. For great 
kings and lords, even though they are good men, do not 
Mark always have angels and St. John the Baptist (Mark vi) 
about them at court, but often Satan (I Kings xxii) and 

J u< ^ as an< ^ Doeg (I Samuel xxii), as the book of Kings show. 
i Sam. It is a good sign that Constantine, before his death, recalled 
22:9 Athanasius, though the Arians strove hard to prevent it 
(III Tripart 11). a Thus he shows that it was not his 
desire to reject the Nicene Council and its doctrine, but that 
he would gladly have brought everything into unity. 

That is just what some of our false papal scribblers are 
doing now. They pretend that they would teach faith and 
good works in order to bedeck themselves and besmirch us, 
as though they had always so taught and we had wrongly 
accused them of teaching otherwise. Their intention is, when 
they have decorated themselves with sheeps' clothing, as 
though they were just like us, to bring their wolf back again 

*Cf. p. 199. 

*Cf. p. 199. 
Txipartita, IV, 1-3. 

On the Councils and the Churches 285 

into the sheep-pen. It is not their serious purpose to teach 
faith and good works; but since, like the Arians, they can- 
not keep their poison and wolfishness and set them up agaia 
by any other means than this sheeps j clothing of faith and 
good works, they deck themselves up in it and conceal the 
wolfskin, until they get back in the sheep-pen. They must 
be treated as they treat our people, and we must bid them 
revoke their abominations and prove their revocation with 
deeds, by abolishing all the abuses that ruled, contrary to 
faith and good works, in their churches, among their people. 
Thus they can be known by their fruits. If they do not do 
this, then their mere .words and gestures are sheep skins, and 
cannot be believed. So Arius, too, should have recanted, ac- 
knowledged his error, and actually contradicted himself, 
in doctrine and life, as St. Augustine contradicted his Mani- 
chseism, 1 and as many men today are contradicting their 
former papistry and monkery ; among whom, by God's grace, 
I can count myself. But they will have it that they have not 
erred, and will not do God the honor of confessing it ; just 
as the Arians wanted to defend their lies and would not have 
it thought that the council had condemned them. 

The lesson of these histories we should well observe, 
especially those of us who must be preachers and have com- 
mand to feed Christ's flock, so that we may see well to it, 
or be good bishops, as St. Peter says in I Peter v (for * ^ 
episcopus, or bishop, means one who looks well to 
things, who is alert, who watches diligently), so that we may 
not be taken unawares by the devil. Here we see how he can 
twist and disguise himself in such masterly style that he 
'becomes far fairer than an angel of light (II Corinthians n COT. 
xi), and false bishops are holier than the true bishops, and 11;14 
the wolf is more righteous than any sheep. We have not to 
deal now with the plain, black, papal spirits 3 outside the 
Scriptures ; they are accommodating themselves to the Scrip- 
tures and to our doctrine, want to be like us and yet tear us 

1 Augustine was a Mamichaan before he became a Christian, and later wrote 
extensively against tike Manichaeans. 
*Polter Babst geister . 

206 On the Councils and the Churches 

to pieces. The Holy Ghost alone must help, and we must 
pray with diligence, or we have lost entirely. 

From all this it is evident why the council was held, 
not on account of outward ceremonies, but on account o the 
high article of the deity of Christ. It was around this that 
the controversy arose; it was this that was chiefly discussed 
In the council and afterwards assailed by the unspeakable 
ragings of the devil, in which the other articles were not 
remembered. The wretched business lasted nearly three 
hundred years among the Christians, so that Augustine holds 
that Arms* punishment in hell becomes greater every day, 
as long as this error lasts, for Mohammed came out of this 
sect. It is evident, too, that what I undertook to show is 
true, viz., that this council neither devised nor established 
anything new, but defended the old faith against the new 
error of Arius. From this fact one cannot conclude that 
the councils have power to devise and set up new articles 
concerning faith and good works, still less that the pope at 
Rome has this power, as they falsely claim. 

Let this be enough, for the time, about the first chief 
council of Nicaea. 

The second chief council, that of Constan- 
tinople, was assembled about fifty years after the Nicene 
Council, 1 under the Emperors Gratian and Theodosius.* This 
was the cause of it. Arius had denied the deity of Christ 
and the Holy Ghost. Meanwhile a new sect arose, the 

of on- Macedonians, for one error always brings another, one dis- 

<Ktanti " aster another, without end and cessation. 

These Macedonians praised the decision of the Nicene 
Council that Christ was God and vigorously condemned 
Arius. They taught, however, that the Holy Ghost was not 
true God, but a creature of God, through whom God moves, 
enlightens, comforts, and strengths the hearts of men, and 
does all that the Scriptures say the Holy Ghost does. This 
sect took strong hold among many great, learned, and able 

a Tlie Council -was held in 3&1. 

* Gratian was emperor 375-383; Tfccodosfas, 379-395. 

On the Councils and the Churches 207 

bishops. It came about this way. Macedonius 1 was bishop 
of Constantinople, the great capital of the whole Eastern 
part of the Empire, where the imperial court was. This 
bishop began the sect, and the fact that the foremost bishop, 
the bishop of the imperial residence, Constantinople, taught 
thus, produced a great effect. Almost everyone in the lands 
around Constantinople, which depended on Constantinople, 
fell to him and attached themselves to him, and Macedonius 
was not idle ; he urged his cause hard, and would have liked 
to draw the whole world into his following, as the devil does 
in all sects. 

^ The good bishops were all too weak to resist this sect o 
bishops. Formerly a simple priest of Alexandria, Arius, 
had started such a confusion ; but here it was not a priest, 
nor even an ordinary bishop, but the bishop of the foremost 
city, the bishop of the imperial palace at Constantinople, 
that started the confusion, and the bishops had to appeal 
again to the emperor to assemble another great council to 
resist this error. This the good Emperor Theodosius did 
and put it in the city of Constantinople itself, in the district 
of the church where Macedonius had been bishop; just as 
the other time Constantine had put the Nicene Council at 
Nicsea, where the bishop was Theognis, who helped Euse- 
bius of Nicomedia to support Arius and afterward to bring 
him back again. 

The next year Damasus, bishop of Rome, also held a 
council 3 and would have liked to have the matter dealt with S^cn 
at Rome, so that the Roman See might get the power to call ana the 
councils and judge all cases. It was to be known as a uni- POJMS 
versal council; for as the highest bishop in the world, he 
called the fathers who had held the council at Constantinople 
in the previous year; but they would not come. However, 
they did write him a fine Christian letter, telling him what 

*The personal history of Macedonius is quite unclear. It is connected with 
the bitter struggle between the Arians ant? the orthodox in the middle of the 
fourth century. Whether he -was the founder ode the sect that bears his name 
is open to question. See LOQFS in Realencyk. 12, 41 ff. 

a Luther > a source for all of the following is the Tri partita. Damasus 

' 6 * e * *** *'* * **"* * r 

Vol. V 14 

208 On the Councils and the Churches 

they had done in the Council of Constantinople. They 
notified him, among other things, that they had condemned 
the heresy of Macedonius and that they had appointed new 
bishops of Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem. O, but 
they ought not to have done that without the knowledge 
and consent of the bishop of Rome, who wanted to have 
the sole power to call councils (which he was not able to do) , 
to judge all heresy (which he could not), and to change 
bishops (which was not his business) ! 

They gave him other good slaps, besides. They told him 
that in the new church at Constantinople (for the city of 
Constantinople had b^n built recently) they had appointed 
Nectarius bishop, at Antioch Flavian, at Jerusalem Cyril. 
These three points were most vexatious to the bishop of 
Rome; nay, it was intolerable that he should have to hear or 
see them. First, they call Constantinople a new church and 
appoint a bishop there, though without the knowledge and 
consent of the bishop of Rome, no new church or new 
bishop ought to be created. The second is still worse, for 
they call the church at Antioch the first and oldest of the 
Actg churches, in which (as they prove by St. Luke, in Acts xi) 
the believers in Christ were first called Christians; more- 
over St. Peter and St. Paul and many of the greatest apos- 
tles preached there for more than seven years. That was 
the same as to say in my German : "Listen, Lord bishop of 
Rome ! You are not the first or highest bishop ; but if there 
is to be only one church, it ought more fittingly be the Church 
of Antioch, which has on its side the Scriptures of St. Luke 
and .actual facts, while Rome has on its side neither Scrip- 
tures nor facts !" 

They were fine and able people, however, and they wanteu 
to check the proud spirit of Rome soberly and gently, in 
Christian love and humility, and, as Sirach says, 1 "to spit 
on the sparks," and exhort the bishop of Rome to remem- 
ber that the Gospel had not come from Rome to Antioch, 
but from Antioch to Rome ; therefore, if it came to a ques- 
tion of precedence, Antioch, the oldest church, ought rightly 

1 Ecdesiasticos 28: 14, 

On the Councils and the Churches 209 

to have precedence over Rome, the new church. This ambi- 
tion, as the words show, had vexed these fine, holy fathers 
sorely, and that was proper. If there had been a Doctor 
Luther in the council, so mild a letter would not have been, 
written to the bishop of Rome, if he could have had any- 
thing to do with it. In a word, there were people in this 
council with whom none of the bishops of Rome of all time 
could compare. 1 

The third point is worst of all, when they call the church 
at Jerusalem the mother of all churches. The reason is that 
Christ, the Lord, was Himself bishop there, and as a sign 
of it, sacrificed Himself on the cross for the sins of all the 
world. There the Holy Ghost was given from heaven, on 
the Day of Pentecost. There all the apostles together ruled 
the Church; not Pefer only, of whom the bishop of Rome 
boasts. No single one of these things happened at Rome. 
Hereby they soberly admonish the bishop of Rome to re- 
member that he is very far from being the bishop of Jeru- 
salem, the mother-church, but that his church at Rome is 
a daughter-church, which d!id not have Christ and the 
apostles and did not bring Jerusalem to the faith; on the 
contrary, he and his church were brought to the faith by it. 
St. Paul humbles the Corinthians the very same way, telling 
them that the Gospel did not come from them, but came to 
them from others. 

At last, however, they go beyond all bounds and appoint 
a patriarch in the new church at Constantinople, and do it can- 
without the previous knowledge and consent of the bishop of ***** 
Rome, as though, in matters of this kind, his knowledge I1W 
made no difference at all. Here, as the pope's flatterers 
themselves say, is the beginning of the everlasting contro- 
versy and contention between the bishop of Rome and the 
bishop of Constantinople over the primacy, or supreme 
authority. For when the bishop of Constantinople, though 
he was in a new city, was made a patriarch and given an, 
equal position with the bishop of Rome, the latter feared 
that the bishop of Constantinople would claim the primacy; 

1 Niciit kundten das wasser reichen. 

210 On the Councils and the Churches 

as actually happened afterwards. The bishops of Constan- 
tinople argued that the emperor had his residence, or court, 
at Constantinople and not at Rome, and Constantinople 
was called New Rome; therefore he must be the supreme 
bishop because "he was bishop of the imperial city and 
court. On the other hand, the bishop of Rome argued that 
Rome was true Rome, and the emperor was called Roman 
emperor, not Constantinopolitan emperor, and Rome was 
earlier than Constantinople. They clawed at each other 
"with such childish, womanish, foolish scurrilities that it is a 
sin and a shame to hear and read them. 

The dispute lasted until the time when Phocas was em- 
peror, the man who had the good Emperor Maurice, his 
lord and predecessor, whose captain he had been, and whom 
the histories call a saint, beheaded with his wife and chil- 
dren. 1 This pious Cain confirmed to the pious Pope Boni- 
face 3 of Rome the supremacy over all bishops, and there 
could have been no better man to confirm this supremacy 
thai this shameful murderer of emperors. Thus Rome had 
as good a beginning for its papacy as it had had for its 
empire, when, in earlier days, Romulus slew his brother, 
Remus, so that he might rule alone and 'call the city after 
himself. Nevertheless, the bishops of Constantinople cared 
nothing for that, and the contention went on and on, though 
meanwhile the Roman bishops, over and above the confirma- 
tion of Phocas, began to deck themselves with fig-leaves and 

^.j cried, with great bellowings, that the church of Rome was 
Matt su P reme > not by man's ordering, but by Christ's own insti- 

16:18 tution, according to Matthew xvi, TtiesPetrus,etc. a 
But the people at Constantinople saw that those at Rome 
were unlearned and quoted Christ's words falsely and inap- 
propriately, and they did not accept the argument. Thus the 

/In 602 Phocas headed a revolution in Constantinople which deposed 
Maunce, who had been on the throne since 582. Maurice and his whole family 
were put to death. Pope Gregory the Great haile<J the revolution as an act of 
Uod aainst a tyrant. Phocas was emperor until 610, when he was deposed 
and killed in another revolution, headed by Hearaclius. See Cambridge 
Mediaeval History, ii, 282 ff. 

a Boniface I was pope for eight months in 607. He had been the papal dip- 
lomatic representative at Constantinople and was on the friendliest terms with 
-Fhocas. from whom he secured the recognition of Rome as "the head of all 
churches," See Realencyk. 3, 289. 

8 * Thau art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." 

On the Councils and the Churches 211 

two churches, Rome and Constantinople, wrangled over the 
worthless primacy with lame, vain scurrilities, until at last 
the devil devoured them both: that of Constantinople by 
the Turks and Mohammed, that of Rome by the pope and 
his blasphemous decrees. 

I tell all this in order that it may be seen what misery was 
caused by this fine Council of Constantinople, because the 
bishop of that city was made patriarch. To be sure, the 
misery would not have been avoided even though no patri- 
arch of Constantinople had been appointed, for the ambi- 
tious devil's head at Rome had already begun to make these 
demands of the bishops everywhere (as was said above), 
and if the bishop of Constantinople had not fallen foul o 
him, he would have rubbed against those of Alexandria, 
Jerusalem, and Antioch; for he would not put up with the 
decree of the Council of Nicsea, in which he had been put 
on equality with the bishop of Alexandria and beneath the 
bishop of Jerusalem. He will be head of the Church with- 
out the councils and fathers, jure d i v i n o 1 as he roars, 
blasphemes, and lies in his decrees. 

This, then, was the second great council, at Constantino- 
pie. It did three things. First, it confirmed the doctrine 
that the Holy Ghost is true God and condemned Macedonius, Did 
who held and taught that the Holy Ghost is a creature. 
Second, it deposed the heretical bishops and appointed real 
bishops, especially at Antioch and Jerusalem. Third, it 
made Bishop Nectarius of Constantinople a patriarch, which 
made the bishops of Rome wild, mad, and crazy, although 
the good fathers may have done it with the best intentions. 

The first thing is the main thing, and is the sole reason 
why this council was held. From this the intention of the 
council can be understood. It was to do no more, and did 
no more, than preserve the article concerning the deity of 
the Holy Ghost. When it had done that, it had finished the 
work for which it was summoned. 

The second thing, the deposition of bishops, is not an 
article of faith, but an external tangible work. Even rea- 

l *'By divine right," 

212 On the Councils and the Churches 

son ought and can do it, and for this it is not necessary, as 
it is when dealing with articles of faith, to have the Holy 
Ghost in any special way, or to assemble a council. There- 
fore it must have been done at another session, after the 
session of the council. They did not establish anew the 
churches or bishoprics at Antioch and Jerusalem, but they 
let them stay as they had been from the beginning ; all they 
did was to put other persons into them. The offices must 
always have been in the Church from the beginning and 
Act3 must continue until the end ; but other persons must be put 
1:26 into them constantly ; : Matthias after Judas (Acts i), and 
living bishops after those who have died. This is not prop- 
erly the work of a council but may be done/ indeed it 
must be done, both before and after the councils, as the 
necessities of the churches demand. Councils cannot be 
held every day, but there is daily need for persons who can 
be put in the offices of the Church as often as they fall 

The third thing was new. They made a patriarch with 
the best of human intentions. How it turned out, we have 
told above; what a shameful wrangling and contention the 
two bishops started over it, so that it is plain that the Holy 
Ghost did not order it so; for it is not an article of faith, 
but an external, tangible work of the reason, or of flesh 
and blood. What difference does it make to the Holy Ghost, 
which bishop has precedence and which comes after? He 
has other things to do than this worldly child's-play. This is 
not only a lesson, to teach us that the councils have no power 
to establish new good works, still less articles of faith ; but 
it is also a warning, that councils ought not to appoint or 
establish any thing new, for they should know that they are 
not assembled for that purpose, but to defend the old faith 
against new teachers ; though, to be sure, they may put new 
persons in old offices (but then persons cannot be called 
articles of faith or good works, since they are uncertain, 
mortal men), and this has to be done outside the councils, 
in the churches, more than in the councils; nay, it must be 
done every day. 

On the Councils and the Churches 213 

Even the fathers of the council themselves confess that 
they established nothing new, when they write, as has been 
said to Damasus, bishop of Rome, and say, among other 
things^ "We know that this is the old, true faith, which is 
according to baptism, and teaches us to believe on the name 
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" 
Indeed, they say nothing at all about the third point, the 
patriarch of Constantinople, perhaps because they thought 
that this was not the point on account of which they had 
come to the council and it was no heresy, if a Christian were 
not to hold, as an article of faith, that the bishop was a 
patriarch; just as today there are many people who are 
neither heretics nor lost because they do not hold the pope 
to be the head of the Church, notwithstanding his councils, 
decretals, bulls and bellowings. Perhaps, on the other hand, 
they did not do this by unanimous consent, but it was done 
by the Emperor Theodosius ; for the other histories declare 
that Theodosius instigated it and pushed it; and he had no 
power to set up articles of faith. 

Since, then, they themselves say and confess that it is the 
old, true faith, in which we were baptized and instructed, 
why shall we grant to the councils the high authority to 
set up new articles of faith and burn as heretics all those 
who do not believe them? That is not understanding the 
councils rightly and knowing what a council is and what 
its office and action are; it is rather looking at the letters 
and giving them all power, even over God. Of that more 
hereafter! We shall now take a brief glance at the other 
two chief councils besides. 

The third great council 1 was held under Theo- 
dosius II, 3 grandson of Theodosius I, of whom I spoke in rni0 
discussing the second council. This emperor summoned two 
hundred bishops to come together to Ephesus. The Latin Council 
writers would like to weave the pope into the story, but it of 
is a fact, nevertheless, that it was not the pope, but the Eph * sns 
emperor,' who had to summon this council, for now that 

1 The Council of Ephesus, 431. 
a Emperor 408-450. 

214 On the Councils and the Churches 

there was a patriarch at Constantinople who was on equal 
footing with the bishop of Rome, the bishops of the East 
cared far less about the bishop of Rome than before. It 
was, therefore, impossible for the bishop of Rome to call 
this council, especially at Ephesus, which lay far across the 
sea, in Asia. If he could have done so, he would have put 
It nearer Rome, as Damasus tried to do with the former 
council, that of Constantinople. 1 To be sure, he is said 
to have had his legates there. That may be, but they did not 

The reason for this council was as follows: The dear 
fathers and fine bishops were gone, St. Ambrose, St. 
Martin, St. Jerome, St. Augustine (who died that very 
year), St. Hilary, St. Eusebius, 3 and others like them, and 
in their place had come other fathers, who were not their 
equals. Therefore the Emperor Theodosius was no longer 
willing to have a bishop of Constantinople chosen from 
among the priests or clergy of the city of Constantinople, 
for the reason that they were commonly proud, ambitious, 
and headstrong and usually caused nothing but trouble. 
Even St. John Chrysostom* was such a person, as the 
Historia tripartita* tells. Therefore the emperor 
had an a d v e n a , K as they called him, brought from Antioch. 
His name was Nestorius and he was a man of strict 
and chaste life, loud-voiced and eloquent, and violently op- 
posed to all heretics. He had to become bishop and patri- 
arch of Constantinople. So the emperor made a great effort 
and had no success ; he tried to run out of the rain and fell 
in the water. 

Nestorius began to defend his priest Anastasius, who 
had preached that the Holy Virgin should not be called 
Mother of God, for since she was human she could not 
bear God. This gave offense to all Christians and they took 

*See above, p. 207. 

Ambrose died 397; Martin, 400; Jerome, 420; Augustine, 430 (not 431); 
HMuy el Poitiers, 367; Eusebius of Czsareak 339. 

The great preacher of Antioch, wko became patriarch of Constantinople in 
398. He was involved in the Origenistic Controversy and deposed 403. He 
died in 407. 

*T ri p art . X, 3, 13, "His pride was an offense warranting condemnatioti/* 

**'A foreigner,** 

On the Councils and the Churches 215 

no other meaning from it than that he held that Christ, born 
of Mary, was not God, but a mere man, like all of us ; and 
out of this there arose such a state of affairs that the 
emperor had to call a council to help things. 

The great bishops came together to Ephesus, though 
slowly, Nestorius with many others, Cyril from Alexan- 
dria, Juvenalis from Jerusalem, and when John of Antioch 
delayed his coming, Cyril (who was opposed to Nestorius) 
and Juvenal condemned Nestorius, and he and his followers, 
in turn, condemned them. When John of Antioch arrived 
and found this division, he was angry at Cyril because he 
had so hot-headedly and hastily condemned Nestorius, and 
the two went at each other and each condemned the other 
and deposed the other from his bishopric. 

When Nestorius saw that such a disturbance had arisen, 
he said, "Oh, let us do away with what causes so much trou- 
ble and admit that Mary may be called Mother of God/' 
But this recantation did not help ; he had to stay under con- 
demnation and in exile. To be sure, the two bishops, of 
Antioch and Alexandria, did condemn one another, even 
after the council, when they were back at home again; but 
at last they were reconciled. Nevertheless, it is offensive 
and distressing to read how these people in high station acted. 
They needed a Constantine to throw their contentious let- 
ters into the fire ;* but those who could have done that were 
gone. Now if Nestorius was in such error that he held 
Christ not for God, but for mere man, then he was justly 
condemned, for his teaching was much worse than that of 
Arius or Macedonius. 

That is the third great council. It did nothing more than 
that. And yet we see that it set up no new articles, but 
defended the old, true faith against the new doctrine of Nes- 
torius, if that is what he taught; and on this basis, we cannot 
grant the councils the power to establish new articles. For 
that Christ is true God was defended before, in the Councils 
of Nicaea and Constantinople, as a true, old article, held 
from the beginning and proved, by the Holy Scriptures and 

1 Cf. above, p. 177. 

216 On the Councils and the Churches 

now testified over against the new heresy of Arius. The 
other decrees established there have to do with bodily mat- 
ters and are not articles of faith and we pass them by. 
^ In order, however, that we may understand this council 
Error' thoroughly, we shall say a little more about it. At one time 
I myself could not understand what Nestorius' error was, 
and thought that Nestorius denied the deity of Christ, and 
held Christ for nothing more than a mere man, as the 
pope's decrees and all the papal authors say; but by their 
own words, when I looked at them rightly, I was forced to 
another conclusion, for they accuse him of making Christ 
two Persons, God and man. Some, who also could not 
understand the case, imagined that he taught as follows: 
Christ was first born of Mary as mere man, and then lived 
such a holy life that the Godhead united with Him and thus 
He became God. And their writings are so confused that 
I think that they themselves do not know, to the present 
day, why they condemned Nestorius. Observe that they 
admit that Nestorius held Christ for God and man ; only he 
is said to have made two Persons of Him. From this it is 
certain that Nestorius did not hold Christ for a mere man, 
as we all thought, since he also holds Him for God, as their 
own words say. The only knot that remains is that he is 
said to have taken Christ, really and truly God and man, for 
a dual Person, divine and human. That is one thing. 

Now he who divides Christ and makes two Persons of 
Him, makes two Christs, a divine Christ who is alto- 
gether God and not a man at all, and a human Christ, who 
Is altogether man, and not God; otherwise there could not 
be two Persons. It is sure, however, that Nestorius did not 
believe that there were two Christs, but only one single 
Christ, as their own words imply, when they say that Nes- 
torius held Christ, viz,, the one, same, real Christ and no 
other, to be two Persons. Therefore it must be false and 
wrong to say that he held Christ to be two Persons. The 
two things cannot stand together, viz., that Christ is two 
Persons and yet is the same, single Christ; but, as said, if 
there are two Persons, there are two Christs, and not one 

On the Councils and the Churches 217 

Christ. But Nestorius holds to no more than one Christ 
Therefore he could not have held Christ to be two Persons, 
or he would have contradicted himself and said yes and no 
in one statement. So, too, it is not written anywhere in the 
histories that Nestorius held Christ to be two Persons, ex- 
cept that the popes and their histories make that quibble; 
though even they themselves admit that they imagine that 
Nestorius taught that after His birth from Mary, Christ 
became God, or was united to God in one Person. Their 
conscience or their misunderstanding forced them to this, 
since they had to admit that Nestorius did not teach that 
there was more than one single Christ. 

The question then is, What was Nestorius condemned for, 
and why was this third great council held against him, if he 
taught nothing else except that Christ was true God and 
man, and was one Christ, not two, i.e., one Person in two 
natures, as we all believe, and as the whole Church has 
believed from the beginning? For it appears that the pope 
and his followers have invented the story that Nestorius held 
Christ for a mere man and not also for God, and that he held 
Christ for two Persons, or two Christs. This appears, I say, 
not only from the histories, but from the very words of the 
popes and their writers. What, then, was Nestorius' error, 
so that we may know the cause of this council ? 

You may read it for yourself in a page or two of the 
Tripartite History, Book XII, chapter 4, 
and can read it in half of a quarter of an hour. There is 
written everything that can actually be known about Nesto- 
rius and this council. See if I hit it. The fault was this: 
Nestorius was a proud, unlearned man, and when he became 
a great bishop and patriarch, he thought that he must be 
considered the most learned man on earth, and needed 
neither to read any of the books of his forbears or of other 
people, nor to learn to speak after their fashion. On the 
contrary, since he was eloquent with a loud voice, he wanted 
to be a self-made Doctor or Master, and would have it 
that whatever he said was right. With this pride, he at- 
tacked the statement that Mary was the mother, or bearer of 

218 On the Councils and the Churches 

God. Then he found other proud bishops who were not 
pleased with his pride, especially Cyril of Alexandria, 1 for 
there was no Augustine or Ambrose at hand. Nestorius had 
learned In the church of Antioch that Christ was true God 
begotten of the Father (the belief defended in the Council 
of Nicsea) and afterwards born of the Virgin Mary, as true 
man. Nestorius had no doubts on either of these points; 
nay, he persecuted the Arians, condemned in the Nicene 
Council, so violently that he caused many deaths and much 
bloodshed by it. So firmly did he hold that Christ is true 
God and man. 

Moreover, he admitted that Christ, God's Son, was born 
of the Virgin Mary according to His humanity, not accord- 
ing to His divinity, as we, and all Christians, also say. But 
there he struck a difficulty. He would not have it that Mary 
should be called, on that account, mother of God, since Christ 
was not born of her according to His divinity ; or, to speak 
plainly, he believed that Christ did not have His deity 
from her, as He had His humanity. That was his whole 
fight ! God cannot be born or have His divine nature from 
a human being ; and a human being cannot bear God or give 
God His divine nature. The unlearned, rude, proud man 
stood on the phrase, "God born of Mary," and interpreted 
*1>orn" by grammar or philosophy, as though it meant to 
have the nature of deity from the one who bore Him. Thus 
the Tripartita says, "He held these words in abomina- 
tion"; and so do we and all Christians, if we understand 
them in that sense. 

From this it is evident that Nestorius, an ignorant and 
proud bishop, thinks of Christ in a really serious way, but, 
in his ignorance, does not know what he is saying. He has 
no right to speak of such matters, and yet he would be a 
M a g i s t e r and speak of them. We, too, know very well 
that Christ did not derive His deity from Mary ; but it does 
not follow that it must, therefore, be false to say, "God was 
born of Mary" and "God is Mary's Son" and "Mary is 
God's mother." I must give you a plain illustration. If a 

1 Bishop of Alexandria, 412-44, the great opponent of Neatorius and the chief 
literary defender of the orthodox Christology. 

On the Councils and the Churches 219 

woman bears a child, a worthless Nestorius (so the Tri- 
partita calls him!) can be proud and ignorant, and raise 
the quibble, "This woman has borne the child, but she is not 
its mother, for the reason that the soul of the child is not of 
her nature or blood, but is infused from elsewhere, i.e., from 
God. Therefore, this child is, indeed, born of the woman 
according to the body; but since its soul is not from her 
body, she is not the child's mother, because she is not the 
mother of its soul." 

Such a wretched sophist does not deny that the two na- 
tures, body and soul, are one person; nor does he say that 
there are two persons, or two children; but he confesses 
that two natures, body and soul, are one person, or one 
child, and that the mother has borne not two children, but 
one; but he does not see what he is denying or what he is 
saying. Just such' a man was Nestorius. He admits that 
Christ is God and man in one Person; but since His deity 
does not come from His mother, Mary, she ought not to be 
called the mother of God. This was rightly condemned in 
the council, and ought to be condemned. Although Nestorius 
holds a right opinion on one point of the main matter, viz., 
that Christ is God and man, nevertheless, the other point is 
not to be endured. It is expressed in words and sayings, 
like "God was not born of Mary and was not crucified by 
the Jews." The sophist says correctly, on one point, that 
the mother cannot bear, or give, the child's soul, but it is 
not to be endured when he says that the child is not the 
mother's natural child and the mother not the child's natural 

In a word, the proud unlearned bishop started a Greek, 
that is, a bad quarrel as the Roman Cicero says of the Greeks, 
Jam diu torquet controversia verbi homi- 
nes gracculos, contentions cupidiores, 
quam veritatis. 1 He who admits that a mother has 
borne a child, which is both body and soul, ought also to 
say and believe that the mother has borne the whole child, 

*f?*This long time controversy over words tortures the little Greeks, who are 
more zealous for contention than for truth.'' Cicero, de o r a t o r e , 1, XL 

220 On the Councils and the Churches 

and is its mother, even though she may not be the mother 
of its souL Otherwise it would have to follow that no 
woman would be the mother of a child, and the command- 
ment, "Honor thy father and mother" would be abolished. 
It should, therefore, be said that Mary is the true, natural 
mother of the child called Jesus Christ, and the true mother 
and bearer of God. Thus whatever else can be said of 
children's mothers can be said of her; they suckle their 
children, bathe them, give them food and drink, and Mary 
suckled God, rocked God, made broth and soup for God. 
For God and man are one Person, one Christ, one Son, one 
Jesus, not two persons, not two Christs, not two sons, not 
two Jesuses ; just as your son is not two sons, two Hanses, 
two shoemakers, etc., even though he has two natures, body 
and soul, body from you, soul from God alone. 

Nestorius' error, then, is not that he holds Christ to be a 
mere man or that he makes two Persons of Him; on the 
contrary he confesses that there are two natures in one Per- 
son > but he will not admit a communicatio idio- 
m a t u m . I cannot say that in German in one word. 
I d i o m a means that which attaches to a nature, or is its 
property, such as dying, suffering, weeping, laughing, eat- 
ing, drinking, sleeping, sorrowing, rejoicing, being born, 
having a mother, sucking the breast, walking, standing, 
working, sitting, lying down, and other things of the kind. 
These are called idiomata humanae naturae, 
that is, properties that attach to a man by nature, things 
that he can, or even must, do or suffer ; for i d i o m a in 
Greek is the same thing as proprium in Latin. Let us 
call it "property." 1 Again, idioma deitatis, is a 
property of divine nature, such as to be immortal, omnipo- 
tent, infinite, not to be born, or eat, drink, sleep, stand, walk, 
sorrow, weep. Why say more? To be God is an immeas- 
urably different thing than to be a man. Therefore the 
idiomata of the two natures cannot coincide. That is 
the opinion of Nestorius. Now if I preached thus : "Jesus, 
the carpenter of Nazareth (for so the Gospels call 

On the Councils and the Churches 221 

f i 1 i u m f a b r i 1 ) , goes on the street and brings his mother Matt - 
a pitcher of water and a pennyworth of bread, to eat and 13:55 
drink with her; and this carpenter, Jesus, is real, true God 
in one Person"; then Nestorius would grant me that and 
say that was true. But if I were to say: "God goes on the 
street, and gets water and bread, to eat with His mother" ; 
then Nestorius would not admit that, but would say, "Get- 
ting water, buying bread, having a mother, eating and drink- 
ing with her,' these are i d i o m a t a , properties, of human 
not of divine nature/' Therefore, if I were to say: "The 
carpenter, Jesus, was crucified by the Jews, and this same 
Jesus is true God," Nestorius would say that this was true. 
But if I say, "God was crucified by the Jews/* he says, "No ! 
The Cross, suffering and death are not the idioma, or 
property, of divine, but of human nature." 

If ordinary Christians hear this, they can think nothing 
else than that he holds Christ to be a mere man, and sepa- 
rates the persons, which he does not intend to do, though his 
words make it appear that he is doing it. Thus it is appar- 
ent what an altogether mad saint and ignorant man he was ; 
for after admitting that God and man were united and 
mingled in one Person, he can nowise avoid the conclusion 
that the idiomata of the two natures should also be 
united and mingled. Otherwise what would it mean, to say 
that God and man are united in one Person? His folly is 
exactly that against which it is taught in the schools, Qui 
concedit antecedens bonae consequentiae, 
non potest negare consequens f in German we 
say, "If the one thing is true, the other must be; if the second 
is not true, neither is the first/ 5 Anyone who admits that 
Crete is your wife, cannot deny that her child is your child, 
if she is a good wife. When these things are taught in the 
schools, no one can believe that there can be anybody crude 
enough to deny them ; but ask the governors and the jurists 
whether they have not often had parties before them who 
confess one thing and will not admit the consequences of it 

1 "The carpenter's son." 

3 "One who admits the premise of a good conclusion, cannot deny tktf 

222 On the Councils and the Churches 

It might be alleged that Nestorius had been acting the 
rascal when he confessed that Christ was God, and one Per- 
son. No ! The proud man was not clever enough for that ; 
he meant it seriously. In one of his sermons, says the 
Tripartita, he cried, "Nay, my dear Jew, you need 
not act so proudly! You could not crucify God." What 
he would say is that Christ is God, but God was not cruci- 
fied. And in the council, in the presence of Bishop Cyril, 
he says, "Many confess that Christ is God, but I shall never 
say that God isbitris ortrinitris" 1 that is to say, 
"Jesus is God, as many of us confess, but that God is born 
two or three times, that I shall not teach." What is in his 
mind, as the Tr i p a r t i t a indicates, 3 is that God and death 
do not agree together, for he thinks it terrible to hear that 
God died. His meaning was that, according to His divinity, 
Christ is immortal ; but he had not enough brains to express 
it that way. Then there is the added fact that the other 
bishops were also proud, and did not consider how the 
wounds could be healed, but how they could be torn open 
and made worse. 

Speaking logically, then, it must follow from Nestorius' 
opinion, that Christ is a mere man and two persons ; but that 
was not his opinion, for the crude, unlearned man did not 
see that he was proposing the impossible when he seriously 
held Christ to be God and man in one Person and, at the 
same time, would not ascribe the idiomata of the two 
natures to the Person of Christ. He wants to hold the first 
statement as true, but he will not grant that which follows 
out of that first statement. Thus he shows that he himself 
does not rightly understand what he is denying. 

We Christians must ascribe all the idiomata of the 
two natures to His Person. Christ is God and man in one 
Person. Therefore what is said of Him as man must also 
be said of Him as God, viz., Christ died, and Christ is God, 
therefore God died ; not God apart from humanity, but God 
united with humanity. Of God apart from humanity both 
statements are false, viz., Christ is God and God died. Both 

* "Doable or triple." *XII, 5. 

On the Councils and the Churches 223 

are false, for God is not man. But if Nestorius thinks it 
strange that God dies, he should remember that it is also 
strange that God becomes man, for thereby the immortal 
God becomes something that must die, suffer, and have all 
the human i d i o m a t a . What would that man be, with 
whom God is personally united, if he were not to have true 
human i d i o m a t a ? He would have to be a phantom, as 
the Manichseans had taught* On the other hand, what is 
said of God must also be ascribed to the man, i.e., God 
created the world and is almighty ; the man Christ is God ; 
therefore, the man Christ created the world and is almighty. 
The reason for this is that God and man have become one 
Person and therefore the Person bears the idiomata of 
both natures. 

Ah, Lord God! Over this blessed, comforting article 
men ought always rejoice, in true faith, without disputes and 
without doubts! We ought to sing, and give praise and 
thanks to God the Father, that He has allowed His dear Son 
to become like us, a man and our brother ! But that wretched 
Satan, through proud and ambitious and wicked people, 
raises up such bad feeling that this dear and blessed joy 
must be hindered and spoiled! We Christians must know 
that if God is not in the scale to give it weight, our side of 
the scale sinks to the ground. That is to say, if it cannot be 
said that God, not a mere man, died for us, we are lost. 
But if God's death and a dying God are in the balance, His 
side goes down and ours comes up, as though it were light 
and empty; but He can also leap up again, or spring out of 
the scale. He could not be in the scale, however, unless He 
had become a man like us, so that we could speak of God 
dying, 'God's suffering, God's blood, God's death. For in 
His own nature, God cannot die; but when God and man 
are united in one Person, then, if the man dies with whom 
God is one thing, or one Person, then it can be truly called 
God's death. 

1 Manichseism had a place for Jesus, as the manifestation of light, which it 
held to be equivalent with good, but the Manichaan, doctrine of matter, which 
made it all evil, prevented the acceptance of His humanity. See Realencyk. 
12, 193 ff., Cf . E n c . of Religion and Ethics, 8, 398. 

Vol. V 15 

224 On the Councils and the Churches 

Besides, this council condemned too little of Nestorius* 

doctrine. It dealt only with the one i d i o m a , viz., that 

God was born of Mary. Therefore, the histories say that, 

in this council it was resolved, against Nestorius, that Mary 

should be called theotokos, "the one who bore God," 

though Nestorius denied to God in Christ all the idio- 

m a t a of the human nature such as death, cross, passion, 

and everything that is not suitable to God. They ought, 

therefore, to have resolved, not only that Mary was t h e o - 

tokos, but also that Pilate and the Jews were crucifiers 

and murderers of God. Afterwards, indeed, he was con- 

demned with reference to all the i d i o m a t a , by saying, 

"Nestorius denies that Christ is God and one Person." That 

is true in effect and in logic, 1 but it is too blunt and far- 

fetched, and Nestorius could get no other idea from it than 

that he was being treated unjustly and wrongly ; for he had 

never taught that in so many words, but, on the contrary, 

had always said that Christ was real and true God and was 

not two persons, and he had persecuted the Arians hard in 

behalf of this belief. People like him cannot make syllogisms 

or draw logical conclusions, and see that one who denies 

theidiomata,or properties, of a nature, can be said to 

deny the substance, or nature, itself. The decision should 

have run thus, "Although Nestorius confesses that Christ 

is true God and man, one Person ; nevertheless, since he does 

not grant the i d i o m a t a of the human nature to the divine 

Person of Christ, he is wrong, and it is the same as if he 

had denied the nature itself." And they ought not to have 

picked out the one i d i o m a , which concerned His mother, 

Mary. In that way, the case of this council would have 

been more clearly understood and it is my opinion that very- 

few people have understood it heretofore. From Platina 3 

and his ilk, it is impossible to understand it. 

I, too, have had to deal with Nestorians, and they fought 

conseqti enti. 

*Bartolomeo Sacchi of Piadena, best known as Platina (1421-81). Under 
Pope Sixtus IV, he was director of the Vatican library. Hia Lives of 
the Popes (Vitae Romanorum Pantificum) was, in Luther's 
day, the best available source of information for the history of the papacy. See 
Ljather als Kirchen historiker pp. 127 ff. 

On the Councils and the Churches 225 

against me very stubbornly, saying that the deity of Christ 
could not suffer. 1 For example, even Zwingli wrote against Modem 
me concerning the text, Verbum caro f actum est .* 
He simply would not have it that f a c t u m should agree 
with v e r b u m , but would have it read, Verbum caro 

fact a est, 8 for the reason that God could not be made 1:U 
anything/ At that time I did not know that that was the 
notion of Nestorius, because I did not understand the coun- 
cil, but I recognized the error of it from the Holy Scrip- 
tures, Augustine, and the Master of Sentences. 6 Who knows 
how many Nestorians there are under the papacy, who 
boast greatly about this council, and do not know of what it 
is that they are boasting? The human reason would be wise 
on this point and hot suffer it that God should die or have 
a human kind of being, even though it believes, because of 
custom, that Christ is God, as did Nestorius. 

So, then, this council established nothing new concerning 
the faith, as was said above, but defended the old faith 
against the new opinions of Nestorius, and we cannot use 
it as an example, or grant, because of it, that the councils 
have power to fix new or different articles of faith. This 
article was in the Church from the very first, and was not 
newly made by the council, but was preserved by the Gos- 
pel, or the Holy Scriptures. There it stands, in St. Luke i, Luke 
that the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that 1: 2 
that which should be born of her was the Son of the Highest ; Luke 
and St. Elizabeth asks, "Whence cometh it that the mother 1*2 
of the Lord should come to me?" All the angels, at Christ- Luke 2:4 
mas, say, "To you is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ 
the Lord." Moreover, St. Paul says, in Galatians iv, "God GaL 4:4 
sent His Son, born of a womaii." These texts, I know for 
sure, hold firmly enough that Mary is mother of God. So J Cor - 
St. Paul says, in I Corinthians ii, "The princes of this world 

*i.e. That Luther's teaching was incompatible with helief in the deity of 

a "The Word was made flesk" 

* "The flesh was made Word." 

*In the Sacramentarian Controversy. Cf. Luther's statement in Vom 
Abendmahl Christi Bekenntnis, of 1528 (Weimar Ed. 
XXVI, 317). See note in Weimar Ed. L r 591. 

'Peter, the Lombard. 

226 On the Councils and the Churches 

Acts crucified the Lord of Majesty" ; and in Acts xx, "God has 
20:28 purchased the Church with His own blood" (though God has 

PHI. no blood, if we are to judge by human reason) ; and in 
2;6f. Philippians ii, "Christ, though He was equal to God, became 
a servant and was found in the fashion of all men" ; and the 
childrens' creed, Symbolum Apostolorum, says, 
"I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was 
conceived, born of Mary, suffered, was crucified, dead, bur- 
ied," etc. There stand the idiom at a of human nature 
plain enough, and they are ascribed to the only Son and 
Lord, Whom we believe to be equal to the Father, and true 
God* Let this be enough about this council. 

The fourth great council was held at Chalcedon 
S^a in Pontus, or Asia, about twenty-two or twenty-three years 
of chai- after the third great council, by the Emperor Marcian, who 
ced " tt was Emperor at Constantinople after Theodosius II. 1 It 
was in the year 455. a Thus the four great councils were 
held within the space of one hundred and thirty years, for 
the council at Nicaea was held in 327, 8 but before them and 
along with them and after them, there were many other coun- 
cils, held here and there by the bishops themselves, without 
the emperors. These four, however, could not come together 
without the emperors. Such very faulty men were the holy 
fathers that it was not easy for one of them to yield to an- 
other, as the histories, unfortunately, show. And this is a 
special consolation for us, to show us that we need not de- 
spair; since the Holy Ghost was in some of these fathers 
and they had to be holy and be saved. 

What the reason for this council was, I myself would be 
The glad to learn from someone else, for there is no trustworthy 
Actaal history that comes down this far. The Ecclesiastic a* 


enc * s w &h ^ e fi rst council, that of Nicaea; the Tripar- 
tit a and Theodoret 5 with the third council, at Ephesus; 
from that point on we must believe the histories of the popes 

^Marcian's dates are 450-58. a The actual date was 451. Actually 325. 

* Eusebitts* Ecclesiastical History. Luther used it in Rufinus* 

c Theodoret ends with the year 428. Luther seems to have known his work 
only through the excerpts in the Tripartita. 

On the Councils and the Churches 227 

and their followers only, and to believe them is a dubious 
procedure, for strong and evident reasons. Up to the pres- 
ent time, they have so drawn everything into their own 
hands, and have told and still tell such lies about their own 
majesty, that no one can build any certainty upon them. 
Now advise me how I am going to be saved, since I do not 
understand this council or know what it did? And what 
has become of the dear saints and Christians who, through 
all these centuries, have not known what this council estab- 
lished? For there must always be saints on earth, and if 
they die, other saints must live, from the world's beginning 
to its end or the article of the Creed would be false, "I be- 
lieve one holy, Christian Church, a communion of saints/' 
and Christ would have been lying, when He said, "I am 28:20 
with you until the end of the world." There must, I say, 
always be living saints on earth, wherever they may be, or 
Christ's Kingdom would have an end and there would be no 
one to pray the Lord's Prayer, confess the Creed, be bap- 
tized, go to the Sacrament, be absolved, etc. 

Well, then, Platina and others say that this was the reason 
for it. There was at Constantinople an abboV they called 
him Archimandrite,' named Eutyches, who brought out 
against Nestorius another doctrine, and taught that Christ 
was one Person, in the divine nature only. Against this, 
the fathers in the council determined that Christ is one Per- 
son and two natures ; and this is true and is the Christian 
faith. According to the pope's histories, however, he taught 
that after the deity had taken on humanity and Christ had 
thus become one Person, only the deity remained and Christ 
is to be considered only God, and not man. If that was 
Eutyches' opinion, he is almost another Nestorius, who is 
said to have taught that Christ is two persons and yet one 
Person, for Eutyches must also have taught that in Christ 
there are two persons, and yet only one Person; and Pope 
Leo says in a letter that Eutyches and Nestorius teach con- 
tradictory heresies. 1 And, indeed, it is true that he who 
teaches that Christ is two and yet one in person or nature 

*Pope Leo I (440-461). Th letter referred to is Ep. LX, to Maximus of 

228 On the Councils and the Churches 

and, again, that in Christ there are two natures and yet one 
nature, is teaching 1 contradictions, nay, self-contradictions. 

If the papists had known, however, that these were not 
the opinions of Nestorius and Eutyches, they ought prop- 
erly to have refrained from such language and spoken a 
little more plainly and in terminis propriis, i.e., 
they ought to have used their very words. Otherwise the 
heretics think that they are being treated unjustly and over- 
come with false words and false interpretations of their 
words, as I said above about Nestorius. 

That Eutyches did not hold that there was only one 
nature in Christ appears from the papists' own words, when 
they say, Eutyches confessed that there are two natures in 
Christ, viz., the deity assumed humanity. One who con- 
fesses this says that Christ has more than one nature. But 
they do not tell us what Eutyches means by saying that after- 
wards only the divine nature in Christ remained, without 
the human nature. Thus they let the matter hang in the 
air, as though Eutyches had held, at the same time, that Christ 
had two natures and not two, but one. Thus the histories 
afterwards become uncertain and obscure, so that no one can 
understand what Eutyches meant or what the pope's his- 
tories mean, and thus they lost this council and the reason 
for its assembling. We cannot find it from the histories of 
the councils or the papal letters. On the other hand, the 
pope's historians ought not to write so roughly and clum- 
sily, and babble out their own words to us, unless we are 
to gather from them that they understood this council almost 
as well as I do. 

I shall speak out my own ideas. If I hit the mark, well 
and good ; if not, the Christian faith will not fall. Eutyches' 
opinion, like that of Nestorius, is wrong on the subject of 
the idiomata, but in a different way. Nestorius will 
not ascribe the idioinata of humanity to- the divinity in 
Christ, though he stands firm in the belief that Christ is God 
and man. Eutyches, on the other hand, will not ascribe the 
idiomata of divinity to the humanity, though he holds, 
with equal firmness, that Christ is true God and man. It is 

On the Councils and the Churches 229 

as though I preached that the Word, God's Son, is creator Jofcn 1:3 
of heaven and earth, equal to the Father in eternity, and that John 
Word, the same Son of God, is true man. This Eutyches i:i3f, 
grants me. He has no doubts about that. But if I go 
on and preach that this man Christ is creator of heaven and 
earth, Eutyches stumbles and is outraged at the words, "A 
man creates heaven and earth." He says, "No! Such a 
divine idiom a as creating heaven and earth, does not befit 
man." But he does not stop to think that he has previously 
admitted that Christ is true God and man in one Person, 
and now will not admit the conclusion, the consequens 
bonae consequentiae. 1 For one who confesses 
that God and man are one Person must simply and abso- 
lutely admit that, because of this union of the two natures 
in one Person, this man Christ, born of Mary, is creator of 
heaven and earth, since that is what He has become in one 
Person, viz., God, who created heaven and earth. 

This conclusion Eutyches does not understand and yet 
says firmly, "Christ is God and man," not seeing that he 
must deny the human nature of Christ, if he refuses to 
ascribe the divine idiomatato the human nature. That 
would be dividing the Person, and Christ would not be man. 
That is what they would show who say of Eutyches that he 
did not allow the human nature in Christ to remain, scil- 
icet in consequenti, 3 though he confesses, scili- 
cet in antecedent!, 8 that the divine and human natures 
are one Christ, one Person, and two natures. In a word, as 
said above, he who confesses the two natures in Christ, God 
and man, must also ascribe the idiomata of both to the 
person, for to be God and man is to be nothing, if not to 
have the idiomata of both. Therefore, both Nestorius 
and Eutyches were rightly condemned because of their error 
in understanding Christ. 

It is true, to be sure, that Eutyches had, perhaps, a greater 
temptation than Nestorius, for many of the human idio- 
mata have been left behind by Christ, such as eating, drink- 

1 "The conclusion of a valid argument/' Cf, above, p. 221. 
***Viz., in his conclusion.'* 
**Ia his premise." 

230 On the Councils and the Churches 

ing, sleeping, sorrowing, suffering, dying, being buried, etc. 
He now sits at the right hand of God, and no longer eats, 
drinks, sleeps, sorrows, suffers, dies, to all eternity, as will 
happen with us also when we pass out of this life, into 
Cor. that, according to I Corinthians xv. These are temporal and 
15:49, transient i d i o m a t a ; but the i d i o m a t a of the nature 
53 remain, such as having body and soul, skin and hair, blood 
and flesh, marrow and bones and all the members of a 
human nature. Therefore it must be said that this man, 
Christ, flesh and blood of Mary, is creator of heaven and 
earth, has overcome death, abolished sin, broken hell in 
pieces. These are all divine i d i o m a t a , and yet it is 
right and Christian to ascribe them all to the Person who is 
flesh and blood of Mary, because there are not two persons, 
but one. 

Your son Peter is called a scholar, though this i d i o m a 
is only of the soul, not of the body, and a Eutyches might 
juggle with the words, and say, "No ! Peter is not a scholar, 
but his soul is." On the other hand, a Nestorius might 
say, "No ! I did not flog your son, but only his body." That 
would sound as though they would make of Peter two per- 
sons, or retain only one nature for him, and yet it would 
not be so meant. That is ignorance and stupidity and shows 
that they were bad logicians. But that kind of ignorance is 
not rare in the world and shows itself in other matters also. 
People often admit something and yet deny what must 
logically follow from it. That is what is meant by ante - 
cedente concesso, negare . cons equ ens .* 
There are today many great lords and scholars who confess, 
freely and firmly, that our doctrine of faith, which justifies 
without merit, by pure grace, is true; and yet they take 
offense when it is said that monasticism and worship of 
saints and the like should, therefore, be let go and be de- 
spised; though logic compels that conclusion. No man can 
be justified except by faith ; it follows, that one cannot be 
justified by the monastic life. Then why hold cm to it? 
What is the use of it? 

1 "Admitting the premise and denying the conclusion." 

On the Councils and the Churches 231 

But I shall take myself, too, by the nose and not be so Lather's 
ungrateful as to forget my own folly. Twenty years ago Folly 
I taught, as I still do, that faith alone justifies, without 
works. If, at that time, however, someone had risen up and 
taught that monkery and nunnery ought to be called idol- 
atry and the mass an abomination, if I had not helped burn 
him at the stake, I should, at least, have believed that burn- 
ing at the stake served him right ; and thoughtless fool that 
I was! I could not see the consequence, which I ought to 
have admitted, viz., that if faith alone does it, monkery and 
the mass could not do it. What was still worse, I knew that 
these were doctrines and works of men, and yet I did not 
ascribe the same value to good works commanded by God 
and done in faith. In truth, I gave a fine illustration of my 
Nestorius and my Eutyches, though with reference to other 
things, when I admitted one thing and did not agree to the 
other thing, which followed from it. So Nestorius admits 
that Christ is God and man and will not agree that this God 
was born and died, though this follows from the first 

Moreover, Luther accuses the papists of teaching neither 
faith nor good works, and they, in turn, have no rest, and 
accuse Luther still more violently of teaching wrongly con- 
cerning the Christian faith and of forbidding good works. 
What, then, is the issue ? Why are they not one, since they 
confess the same things? I shall tell you. There is a 
Nestorius here who has gone astray on the i d i o m a t a . 
Luther wants good works, but they are not to have glorious, 
divine idiom, ata, so that they make satisfaction for sin, 
reconcile God's wrath, and justify sinners. These idio- 
mata belong to Another, Whose name is "Lamb of God, 
that beareth the sins of the world/' Yea, verily these 
i d i o m a t a should be left to the blood and death of Christ ; 
good works should have other idiomata, other merits, 
other rewards. This the papists do not want, but they 
ascribe to good works the power to make satisfaction for 
sins and make people righteous. Therefore they cry out that 
Luther teaches no good works, but forbids them. They do 
not see the logical consequence, however. If one teaches 

232 On the Councils and the Churches 

good works which make satisfaction for sin, it is just the 
same as though one taught no good works at all, for such 
good works are nihil in rerum natura, 1 they are 
nothing and nowhere, and cannot be. Therefore in the very 
act of teaching and confessing good works, firmly and com- 
pletely, they teach no good works at all. 

Here you see Nestorius' logic. He admits the antecedent 
and denies the consequence, and thus he makes the antece- 
dent false. If the one is true, the other must also be true 
in any real, logical argument On the other hand, if the 
latter statement be false, the former must also be false. 
Good works make satisfaction for sin, they not only admit 
this, but even insist upon it ; but the other statement, viz., 
that such works are not good, nay, are nothing and not 
works at all, this they condemn. And yet the latter state- 
ment follows compellingly out of the former; for good 
works that make satisfaction for sin are the same as no 
good works ; just as it follows compellingly, Q u i d o c e t 
id quod not est, docet nihil, "He who teaches 
what is not, teaches nothing." So one may speak, too, of 
faith. He who teaches a faith that does not justify alone 
and without works, teaches no faith; for the faith that 
justifies with or by works, is nothing at all. 

I will give a still plainer illustration. Some jurists admit 
that it is right for a priest to many, but do not admit the 
consequence, viz., that a priest's children are heirs. 3 That 
is the same thing as saying that a priest's marriage is forni- 
cation, for if there is a marriage, the child must be an heir ; 
if it is not an heir, there is no marriage. This is called in 
the schools, negare consequens antecedentis 
concessi in bona consequentia, and de~ 
structo consequente, retinere antece- 
dens. 8 This is impossible, and those who do it are known 
for gross, ignorant people; but it was the failing of both 
Nestorius and Eutyches, as it is of many other people in 
other matters. It is sure that both of them were serious in 

3 "Not m the nature of things," ie., as things are, there are no such works. 
*ie., legitimate. 

* "Defying the conclusion of an admitted premise, in a good syllogism," and 
"retaining the premise when the conclusion has been destroyed/' 

On the Councils and the Churches 233 

holding that Christ is God and man in one Person, as we 
gather from the histories, and even from the acts of the 
councils, and yet they could not agree to the result, or con- 
clusion, that the Person, Who is God and man, was crucified 
and made the heavens, but thought that Christ could not be 
crucified and man could not make the heavens. 

And what shall we say of ourselves? The apostles at 
Jerusalem, together with many thousands of the Jews, had 
been justified by faith alone, i.e., by the grace of Christ; 
but they had their Nestorius and Eutyches sticking in them 
and did not see the consequence, viz., that the law of Moses 
did not and could not contribute anything to this, but wanted 
to give it the i d i o m a t a which belong only to the Lamb of 
God, and said, as we have noted above, 1 that the Gentiles 
could not be saved, unless they were circumcised and kept the 
law of Moses. That was the same thing as denying Christ 
and His grace, as St. Paul says in Galatians ii, "If right- Gal * 2:21 
eousness come by the law, then Christ has died in vain'*; 
and in Romans xi, "If it is of grace, then it is not of works." 
But those at Jerusalem spoke thus : "It is, indeed, grace alone, 
but it must also be works alone ; for without the law, no one 
can be saved, though a man must be saved by grace alone, 
without the law." In plain German, that is cutting off one's 
own nose, a and not understanding what one says. The 
schools call it, as I have said, antecedens conce- 
de r e , and consequens negare; or conse- 
quens destruere and antecedens affirm- 
are.* It is saying Yes and No at the same time about the 
same thing. This no one must do, unless he is utterly igno- 
rant or a hopeless scoffer. 

That is what my Antinomians,* too, are doing today. They 

1 See above, pp. 188 f. 

a S 5 c h selbs in die Backen hauen, "chopping oneself in the 

8 "Granting the premise and denying the conclusion," or "destroying the 
conclusion and affirming the premise.*' 

* The party whose spokesman was Luther's old friend and follower. John 
Agricola of Eislebeo. Through the years 1536-39, he had been uttering opin- 
ions that conflicted sharply with Luther's own. The subject of their difference 
was the meaning and purpose of the law; Luther held that the purpose of 
God's law was to lead men to knowledge of sin and so to repentance; Agricola 
taught that repentance was possible only through the knowledge of the good- 
ness of God revealed in the gospel. Luther accused Agricola of abolishing the 

234 On the Councils and the Churches 

are preaching finely and (I can think nothing else) with 
real seriousness about Christ's grace, the forgiveness of 
^.^ ^^ ^ ^ er things that can be said concerning re- 
demption. But they fiee the consequence of this, as though 
It were the very devil, and will not speak to the people about 
the Third Article, 1 which is sanctification, i.e., the new life 
in Christ. For they think that they ought not to terrify 
people, or disturb them, but always to preach in a comfort- 
ing way about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, 
and utterly avoid such words as these : "Listen ! You want 
to be a Christian and yet remain an adulterer, fornicator, 
drunken swine, proud, covetous, a usurer, envious, revenge- 
ful, malicious 1" On the contrary, they say : "Listen ! Though 
you are an adulterer, a fornicator, a miser, or any other kind 
of sinner, only believe, and you will be saved and need not 
fear the law ; Christ has fulfilled it all !" 

Tell me, is that not granting the premise and denying the 
conclusion ? Nay, it is taking away Christ and bringing Him 
to nought, at the same time that He is most highly preached. 
It is saying Yes and No to the same thing. There is no such 
Christ, Who has died for these sinners who, after forgive- 
ness of sins, do not leave their sins and lead a new life. Thus 
they finely preach the logic of Nestorious and Eutyches, that 
Christ is this and is yet not this. They are fine Easter 
preachers, but shamefully poor Pentecost preachers, for 
they preach nothing de sanctificatione et vivi- 
ficatione Spiritus Sancti, i.e., concerning sancti- 
fication by the Holy Ghost, but preach only about redemp- 
tion by Christ, though Christ, Whom they extol so highly 
(and rightly so!) is Christ, i.e., He has purchased redemp- 
tion from sin and death, in order that the Holy Ghost shall 
make new men of us, in place of the old Adam, so that we 
die unto sin and live unto righteousness, as St. Paul teaches 
in Romans vi, beginning and increasing this life here on 
earth, and completing it yonder. What Christ has earned 
for us is not only gratia, "grace," but also donum, 

real purpose of the law and debasing the gospel. Only a few months before 
the present work was written, Luther had published the last of a series o 
writings against Agricda, See Weimar Ed-, L f 461 ff. 
1 The third article of the Creed. Cf . Luther's Catechism, 

On the Councils and the Churches 235 

the "gift" of the Holy Ghost, so that we might not only 
have forgiveness of sin, but also cease from sinning. Who- 
ever, then, does not cease from sinning, but continues in his 
former wicked life, must have another Christ from the 
Antinomians, for the real Christ is not there, even though 
all the angels were to cry only "Christ! Christ!"; and he 
must be damned with his new Christ. 

See what bad logicians we are in high matters, which are 
above us or in which we are not practiced, so that at one 
and the same time, we can believe a thing and not believe it! 
In lower things, however, we are very keen logicians! A 
farmer, however stupid he may be, understands and reckons 
it out at once that he who gives me a groschen gives 
me no gulden, for it follows as a matter of course, and 
he sees the logic clearly. But our Antinomians do not see 
that they preach Christ without the Holy Ghost and against 
the Holy Ghost, because they are willing to let the people 
continue in their old life, and yet declare them saved, though 
the logic of it is that a Christian should have the Holy Ghost 
and lead a new life, or know that he has no Christ. These 
asses, then, want to be better logicians than Master Philip 1 
and Aristotle, to say nothing of Luther, The pope alone 
must feel them; they fly too high for me. So, then, the logic 
of Nestorius and Eutyches is a common plague, especially 
in matters of Holy Scripture; in other matters it knows how 
to conduct itself. To be sure, it gives the jurists and rulers 
trouble enough in subtle cases, where they sometimes hear 
Yes and No at once and have difficulty in telling them apart. 

Now if Eutyches or Nestorius, after being instructed by 
the bishops remained stiff and proud in his opinion, though 
I cannot determine this, according to the histories, then 
they were justly condemned, not only as heretics, but as 
gross fools. But if they did not stand stiffly on their own 
opinions (and the acts of the councils report that Eutyches, 
especially, did not) and the bishops condemned them with- 
out giving kindly instruction to the erring ones, according to 
Paul's teaching, in Galatians vi, even then they judged the 
case aright, though they will have to answer to the true 

236 On the Councils and the Churches 

Judge for their pride and hasty action (for these councils 
have attained great reputation and there were more than six 
hundred and thirty bishops at this one). 

I remember Master John Wesel, 1 who was preacher at 
Mainz and formerly ruled the University of Erfurt with 
his books, from which I myself got my Master's degree 
there, how he was condemned by the abandoned, proud 
murderers, known as ^inquisitors (I ought to say 'inven- 
tors') of heresy/' Dominicans, because he would not say "I 
believe that there is a God," but "I know that there is a 
God" ; for all the schools held that the existence of God is 

Rom. known of itself, as St. Paul also says in Romans L How 
1:19 the barefoot murderers at Eisenach dealt with John Hilten 
is told in the Apology. 3 

Suppose that, without any warning, there were to come 
to you and me an honorable man, who could make the case 
sound strange with the uncouthness of his words, and he 
were to say : "I want to tell you ! A new prophet has arisen 
who teaches that if a man is entirely holy, he cannot only 
do miracles, but create heaven and earth, and all that is in 
them, and angels, making them out of nothing, as some of 
the scholastic doctors have argued in discussing Book IV 
of the Sentences, 8 What is still worse, he says that the 
old God is dead, etc." Here you and I would say: "This 

Mai 3:6 must be the devil and his dam. The Scripture says, 'I am 
^ oc ^ an( ^ change not' ; and Paul says, Qui solus i m - 
mortalitatem habet. *Who alone hath immortal- 
ity/ What is the use of many words ? God lives alone and 
is Himself life." Then he would begin : "That is what you 
yourself teach. You say that Christ is a man, entirely holy, 

*Jahann von Wesel (d. 1479). He taught at Erfurt 1445-57. In 1461 he 
became professor of theology at Basel; in 1463, cathedral preacher at Worms. 
The criticisms of the Church, expressed in his sermons, caused his deposition 
in 1477. He -was then called to a position as preacher in Mainz, but was almost 
immediately accused of heresy, and after a trial before a commission which 
included the famous Dominican inquisitors Elten and Sprenger, was condemned 
to life-imprisonment in a monastery. Because of his vigorous attacks on 
indulgences and his clear assertion of the sole authority of Scripture, he is 
usually classed among the precursors of Luther. The fullest account of his life 
and teaching in UU,MANN, Reformatoren vor der Ref., a (1866), I. 
149 fr; Eng. trans., I, 160 ff. 

a The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Art. XXVII, 
GACOBS, Book of Concord, 280 f.) Cf. Realencyk. 8; 78-60. 

8 The Sentences of Peter Lombard. 

On the Councils and the Churches 237 

who made heaven and earth, and that He is also true God, 
Who died for you on the Cross." See how we have, all 
unwittingly, become blasphemous Nestoriuses and Eutycheses 
by confessing that Christ, one Person, has died for us and 
has created heaven and earth, though we have just said that 
it must be the devil and his dam who says that a man 
created heaven and earth and that God died ; and yet logical 
Consistency compels us to say this, because we believe that 
Christ is God and man in one Person. There you see how 
the idiomata get thoughtless people all mixed up and 
lead them astray unwittingly. In such a case we ought to 
come along with gentle instruction, and not proudly condemn 
those who have erred. God grant that I may not be telling 
the truth, but I fear that at the Last Day some heretics will 
be judges and some of the bishops who have judged them 
will be condemned. "God is wonderful and incomprehen- 
sible in His judgments" though we know that "He is t 
gracious to the humble and resisteth the proud" ; and espe- j p^ 
daily in the ranks of those who have a place in the councils 5:5 
and the Church, nothing should be done from zelo, i.e., 
envy and pride. God cannot suffer it. 

These are my ideas about Eutyches. If I have not hit the 
mark, I have missed it ; and it is their fault. Why did they 
not treat the subject better and describe it more diligently 
so that it could be understood more clearly? And what would 
we do if the acts of this council were lost? The Christian faith 
would not sink. More things and better things than the acts 
of this council have been lost. St. Augustine himself com- 
plains that he finds almost nothing in the writings of his 
predecessors that help him against Pelagius, and yet such 
a great matter must have been much discussed. I have 
formed my ideas in accordance with the words of the 
Roman bishop Leo who says 1 that the heresies of Eutyches 
and Nestorius are opposite and contradictory of one another. 
Now it is certain from the Tripartita, that Nestorius 
confessed, even violently, that Christ is true God and man 
and was no Arian ; for the Arians held that Christ is simply 

*Leo I, Ep. CLXV T c. 2. Cf. Ep. CXXIV. (N iccne an d Post-N i- 
cen,e Fathers, Second Series, p. 91. 

238 On the Councils and the Churches 

not God, and he drove them out and persecuted them even 
to the point of murder and slaughter. But his heresy lay 
in this, that the idiom at a confused him and led him 
astray so that he could not see how God could "be born of a 
woman and crucified. Therefore, Eutyches' opposite heresy 
must have been that he did, indeed, hold Christ for God and 
man but would not give the idiomata of the divine na- 
ture to the man, just as Nestorius would not ascribe the 
idiomata of the human nature to God, in the one Person 
of Christ. This is what is meant by saying that the two are 
opposite and contradictory. 

If it was his intention simply to deny the human nature in 
Christ, then his heresy is not the opposite of that of Nestor- 
ius, but he must have been raving mad to think that in Christ 
deity and humanity were united and yet that only one nature, 
the divine, remained. That would have been opposed not 
only to Nestorius but to all believers and unbelievers, to all 
heretics and true Christians, to all heathen and all men ; for 
no man ever taught a thing like that. Nevertheless they de- 
scribe these matters in such a way as to testify that Eutyches 
confessed that in Christ deity and humanity were united in 
one Person, and yet they say the other thing also, 1 as though 
they intended that nobody should understand it; therefore 
we will not understand it. Why should we, when we have 
a better understanding of it already. Eutyches said in the 
council that he had not spoken words like those of which 
they accused him when he was said to have denied the 
human nature. From this one can mark that he was in 
error and did not wish to deny the human nature in Christ 
But if I were Doctor Luther, I would like to hear from these 
papal writers how they themselves could believe their own 
words, when they said that Nestorious held that there were 
two persons in Christ and yet only one person, and that 
Eutyches held that there were two natures in Christ and yet 
only one nature. I think, indeed, that they, too, are Nes- 
torian and Eutychian logicians; I say nothing about their 
theology; perhaps they are compelled to be antilogicians. 

that Christ had only one nature. 

On the Councils and the Churches 239 

To come back to the council ! We find that here, too, this The 
council established no new article of faith, and so cannot be ^ cil 
used as a proof that councils have power to load new articles NO New 
of faith upon the Church. For this article is far more Articl < 
abundantly and mightily grounded in Scripture, as in John v, 
"The Father hath given power to the Son to execute judg- ^* 27 
ment, because he is the Son of man." Here, according to 
Eutyches' opinion, Christ would have had to say, "Because 
he is the Son of God." For to execute judgment is an 
i d i o m a of the divine nature and not of the human nature ; 
but Christ ascribes it to His human nature, the Son of man, 
i.e., the son of the Virgin Mary. In Matthew xxii, also, Matt ; 
Christ asks the Pharisees how it agrees that David calls 22:43 
Christ "Lord," though He is to be his son and his seed. 
"If He is David's son, or seed, how, then, does He sit at 
the right hand of God?" Here Eutyches would have had to 
say that not David's seed, but only God's son can sit at the 
right hand of God. Nevertheless he confesses that David's 
son and God's Son are one person; but where the person 
sits, there sits God's Son and David's. Eutyches did not see 
this consequence, and therefore had to let men think that 
he held Christ to be not a man, but only a divine person and 
nature, though this was not what he meant. 

In a word, all the prophets and all the Scriptures which 
ascribe to Christ, or Messiah, an everlasting kingdom and 
redemption from sin, death, and hell are all against Eutyches, 
for they all say that "the seed of the woman shall trample 
on the head of the serpent," (Genesis iii), that is, shall Gen.3:is 
overcome sin, death, devil, hell; and these are idiomata 
of divine nature, not of the woman's seed. And all the 
world is to be blessed through the seed of Abraham (Gen- G ^. lg 
esis xxii), that is, sin, death, hell, the curse of God, are to 
be taken away, and these, too, are idio-mata not of 
Abraham's seed, but of divine nature. Later on, the glorious, 
mighty prophecies of David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the 
prophets say of David's seed that he shall establish eternal jer. 
righteousness, that is, abolish sin, death, and hell; these are 23:5 
idiomata of divine majesty and nature, and yet they are 
VoL V 16 

240 On the Councils and the Churches 

ascribed, throughout the Scriptures, to the son of David, 
Christ, the son of the Virgin Mary. Even though I have 
not this council or do not understand it aright, nevertheless, 
I have these Scriptures and understand them aright, and it 
is the duty of the council to hold what they teach ; and for 
me that is more certain than all councils. 

Anyone who will may read further into the story of this 
council ; I have read myself into a bad humor with it. There 
is in it so much quarreling and disturbance and disorder that 
I must almost believe the great Nazianzen/ the teacher of 
St. Jerome, who lived before this time 3 and saw better 
councils and fathers, and yet says, "To tell the truth, one 
ought to flee all the councils of bishops, for I have never 
seen any good results from the councils, not even the aboli- 
tion of evil, but only ambition, disputes over precedence, 
etc." 8 I wonder how it happens that they have not long 
since made him out the worst of heretics because of these 
words. But what he says is true. In the councils the bishops 
are ambitious, proud, quarrelsome, and violent ; and you will 
find that in this council, though it is not necessary, to be 
sure, that all who teach correctly or uphold correct doctrine 
shall be holy men. Balaam was a true prophet and Judas 
24:17 was a true apostle and the Pharisees sit in Moses 5 seat and 
io:4 teach correctly. We, too, therefore, must have for our 
faith something more and something more certain than the 
Hatt, councils. That something more and more certain is the 
23:2 Holy Scriptures. 

That he speaks the truth when he says that he has seen 

no good result of the councils, the histories plainly teach us. 

c<wncfl For before the Nicene Council the Arian heresy was a jest 

of Coa- compared with the misery that it created after the council, 

****** as was said above. So it went also with the other councils, 

as in the cases of Macedonius and Nestorius, for the party 

that was condemned held together all the more firmly, wanted 

to justify itself and be uncondemned, and fanned the flame 

more violently than before against the councils, which did 

1 Gregory of Nanzianzus, Patriarch of Constantinople at the time of the Second 
General Council, 381. 

*ie. Before the Council of Cnalcedan. 

* E p . IV, to Procopius. Cf. Weimar Ed. L, 604, note a. 

On the Councils and the Churches 241 

not rightly understand them. So it happened to us Ger- 
mans at the Council of Constance The pope was made sub- 
ject to the council and was deposed by it and his tyranny 
and simony were severely condemned. But since that time 
the pope is possessed with seven worse devils and his 
tyranny and simony have just gotten a good start. He 
devours and robs and steals all the endowed places, the 
monastic houses and the churches; he sells indulgences, 
grace, law, God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost; he betrays, 
ruins, and disturbs emperor and kings ; he makes war, sheds 
blood, and kills bodies and souls, so that one must compre- 
hend what god it is who keeps house at Rome. This is the 
reward we Germans have for deposing and reforming the 
popes at the Council of Constance. I think, indeed, that this 
was the right end for this council. Depose more popes next 
time, and reform them, if seven devils are not enough for 
them, so that there may be seventy-seven legions of them to 
fight against you; if, indeed, there is any room there for 
more devils to get into them and they are not already filled 
up with devils. This was the reformation of the Council 
of Constance. 

We now have the four chief councils and the causes for 
which they were held. The first, at Nicaea, defended the 
deity of Christ against Arms ; the second, at Constantinople, 
defended the deity of the Holy Ghost against Macedonius; 
the third, at Ephesus, defended the one Person of Christ 
against Nestorius; the fourth, at Chalcedon, defended the 
two natures in Christ against Eutyches : but they did not 
thereby establish any new article of faith. For these four 
articles are established fair more abundantly and powerfully 
in St. John's Gospel alone, even though the other evan- 
gelists and St. Paul and St. Peter had written nothing about 
them, though all these, together with the prophets, teach 
them and testify mightily to them. These four councils the 
bishops of Rome, according to their decree, hold to be like 
the four evangelists, as though these matters, together with 
all articles of faith, did not stand far more richly in the 
Gospels and as though the councils had not taken, them from 

242 On the Councils and the Churches 

the Gospels ; so finely do those asses of bishops understand 
what the Gospels and the councils are ! And if these four 
chief councils do not intend to make or establish anything 
new in the way of articles of faith, and cannot do so, as 
they themselves confess, how much less can such power be 
ascribed to the other councils, which must be held of smaller 
account, if these four are to be called the chief councils. 

This is the way in which we are to understand all other 
councils also, whether large or small, even though there 
were many thousands of them. They set up nothing new, 
either in faith or good works, but rather, as the highest 
judges, and greatest bishops under Christ, they defend the 
ancient faith and the ancient good works, though, to be sure, 
they do deal besides with temporal, transient, changing 
things, to meet the need of their own times. This, however, 
has to be done, even outside the councils, in the parishes and 
schools. But if they do establish anything new in faith or 
good works, be assured that the Holy Spirit is not there, 
but the unholy spirit with his angels. For they can do this 
only without the Holy Scriptures and outside of them, nay, 
contrary to the Holy Scriptures, as Christ says, "He that 
12:30 is not with me is against me." The Holy Ghost can neither 
j ^ know nor do anything more than St. Paul, when he says, in 
2:2 I Corinthians ii, "I know nothing save Jesus Christ, the 
John crucified," and the Holy Ghost is not given us in order to 
14:26 put anything into our minds or teach us anything apart from 
Christ, but he is to teach us and call to our remembrance 
C 01 * 2:3 all that is in Christ, in whom lie hidden all treasures of wis- 
j olm dom and understanding. He is to make Him clear to us, as 
16:19 Christ says, and not praise up our reason or opinion, or 
make it an idol. 

Therefore, such councils apart from the Scriptures are 
Acts 4:26 councils of Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, as the apostles say 
^ :2 in Acts iv, Convenerunt in unum adversus 
26:4 D o m i n u m , "They take counsel, or hold councils, against 
God and His Christ" >" and a11 the evangelists say that the 
high-priests and Pharisees took counsel, or assembled coun- 
22:2 cils, how they might kill Christ, as David had prophesied in 

On the Councils and the Churches 243 

Psalm n, saying that they would take counsel against God B* 2:21 
and His Anointed and call Christ's preaching "bands" and 
"cords," and break them asunder and cast them from them. 
This is what most of the pope's councils have been. In them 
he sets himself up in Christ's stead as head of the Church, 
puts the Holy Scriptures beneath him and rends them 
asunder, as his decrees show. Thus at Constance he con- 
demned both kinds in the sacrament 1 and before that he tore 
marriage asunder, forbade it and condemned it, and actually 
crucified and buried the Christ, 

And now we come to the main question because of which What a 
I am writing this book. What is a council, or 
what is its work? If it is not to set up new articles 
of faith, then all the world has heretofore been wretchedly 
deceived, for it knows nothing else and holds nothing else 
except that what a council decides is an article of faith, or 
at least a work necessary to salvation, so that he who does not 
keep the council's decree can never be saved, because he is 
disobedient to the Holy Ghost, the council's Master. Ah, 
well ! I think that my conscience is clear, and no council, as 
I said above, has power to establish new articles of faith, 
because the four chief councils did not do so. Therefore I 
shall here speak my opinion and answer the main question 
as follows. 

First. A council has no power to establish new articles 
of faith, despite the fact that the Holy Ghost is in it; for 
even the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem (Acts xvi) estab- Acts 
lished nothing new in the way of faith, but only St. Peter's 15:11 
conclusion, viz., that all their ancestors had believed this 
article. 3 A man must be saved without the law, only through 
the grace of Christ. 

Second. A council has the power, and is bound, to 
suppress and condemn new articles of faith according to 
Holy Scripture and the ancient faith as the Council of 
Nicsea condemned "the new article of Arms, that of Con- 

* Sec ote, WBIMAK ED. XXXIX, 9fc a Cf. above, p. 

244 On the Councils and the Churches 

stantinople the new article of Macedonius, that of Ephesus 
ihe new article of Nestorius, that o Chalcedon the new 
article of Eutyches. 

Third. A council has no power to command new good 
works. Nor can it do so, for all good works are already 
abundantly commanded in Holy Scripture. What more good 
works can one imagine than those which the Holy Ghost 

GaL 5:22 ^^ taught in the Scriptures, such as humility, patience, gen- 
tleness, mercy, faithfulness, faith, kindness, peace, obedi- 
ence, self-control, chastity, giving, serving, etc., in a word, 
love ? What good work can one imagine that is not included 
in the command of love? If it is outside of love, what kind 

Gal 5:14 Q a good work is it? For love, according to St. Paul's teach- 
ing, is the fulfillment of all commandments, as Christ Him- 
se ^ a-* 80 says in Matthew v. 

Fourth. A council has the power, and is bound, to 
condemn wicked works that are contrary to love, according 
to the Scriptures and the ancient way of the Church, and 
to rebuke 1 the individuals who are guilty of them, as the 
decree of the Nicene Council rebukes the ambition o other 
vices of the bishops and deacons. 

In this connection we ought to speak of two kinds of 
wicked works. Some of them, such as avarice, murder, 
adultery, ambition, and the like, are openly wicked. These 
we find condemned by the councils, as they are also con- 
demned, without the councils, in Holy Scripture and are 
punished by the temporal law. But beside these there are 
other new good works, which are not called wicked, but are 
beautifully wicked, 3 fine vices, holy idolatries, invented by 
the special saints or even the mad saints; in a word, they 
are a white devil, a bright Satan. These wicked works (I 
should rather say, these new good works!) the councils 
ought to condemn to the uttermost and as sharply as possi- 
ble, for they are perilous to the Christian faith and are an 
offense to the Christian life, and cause both to be deformed 
or despised. 

So when a weak Christian sees or hears a holy hermit 

*Or "punish." 

i.e. wicked in spite of a fiae appearance. 

On the Councils and the Churches 245 

or monk who leads a life of peculiar strictness beyond the 
old, ordinary Christian way, he stumbles, and thinks that, 
compared with this new saint, the life of all the old Chris- 
tians is nothing, or is entirely worldly and perilous. That 
is the source of this abomination that has made its way into 
all the world: a Christian burgher or peasant who has a 
true, pure Christian faith toward Christ and practices the 
true, old, good works, such as humility, patience, mildness, 
chastity, love, and faithfulness to his neighbor, and diligence 
and care in his work, office, calling, and station, such a man 
is a real old saint and Christian ; but he must stink and be 
nothing at all compared with the new saint who, underneath 
his special dress, food, fasting, bed, outward conduct, and 
the like new works, is a proud, ambitious, wrathful, impa- 
tient, hateful, lustful, presumptuous, false Christian. Such 
people St. Paul himself calls proud and self-willed saints, 
who choose for themselves a new kind of life and a new way 
of serving God (a way that God has not commanded!) over 
and above the Christian Church's old, true, common way of 
living and serving God, which God has ordained and com- 

The elect may be preserved amid these new and offensive 
works, but they will have to take off this new skin and be 
saved in the old Christian skin. This is what happened to 
St. Anthony 1 when he had to learn that a shoemaker or 
tanner in Alexandria was a better Christian than he with his Wwrfe 
monkery, and he confessed, also, that he had not progressed 
as far as that shoemaker. So it was, too, with the great 
saint, John, primus eremita, 2 who prophesied for the 
Emperor Theodosius and was highly praised by St. Augus- 
tine. When the people, among them St. Jerome, admired the 
severity of his life, he gave this answer: "Why do you 
look for anything special among us ? Have you not some- 
thing better in your parish-churches, where the Scriptures 

founder of monasticism in Egypt (d. 356). Luther had the story 
from the Vitae patrum, which passed as the work of Jerdme, but is 
now generally ascribed to Rufinus. Cf. SCKAEFBR, pp. 159 ff., 425. 

3 "The first hermit" He is usually known simply as John the hermit. 
Luther found this story also in the Vitae patrum. The praise of 
Augustine is found in his tract, De cura pro mortuis gerenda 
, 40, 607 f.) 

246 On the Councils and the Churches 

and the examples of prophets and apostles are preached to 
you?" That is taking off the cowl and subjecting oneself 
to Holy Scripture and praising only the common Christian 
way of life. Paphnutius 1 also had to learn that he was on a 
level with a fiddler who had been a murderer, and with two 
wives who had lain with their husbands that very night, and 
had to say, "One must despise no rank in life." The same 
thing happened to St. Bernard, 3 to Bonaventura, and doubt- 
less to many other good men ; when they had to feel at last 
that their new holiness and monkery could not stand against 
sin and death, then they crept to the cross and were saved 
in the old Christian faith, without their new holiness, as the 
words of St. Bernard testify in many places. 

In none of the councils, especially the four chief ones, do 
we find these new good works condemned, except that one 
or two small councils, especially that of twenty bishops at 
Gangra (the proceedings of which have recently been print- 
ed) 8 have done something in the matter; but they have rather 
allowed this new holiness to get the upper hand until the 
Christian Church is scarcely recognizable any longer. They 
have acted like lazy gardeners who let the suckers get such 
headway that the old, true tree has to suffer, or be ruined. 
Even as early as the time of St. Anthony monkery had made 
such headway that in the days of the fourth council there 
was already an abbey near Constantinople of which Eutyches 
was abbot, though the monasteries were not the imperial 
castles of stone that they afterwards became. For they call 
him archimandrite, and m a n d r e is said to mean a simple 
fence or hedge such as is made of bushes and plants and 
shoots to keep in cattle or as a pen for sheep; and Eutyches, 
as the head of it, lived, with his followers, inside such a 
hedge, and led a separated life. From this one can under- 

*The same referred to above as a member of the Nicene Council. This 
story is another from the Vitae pat rum. 

a Cf. Weimar Ed., 47, 85, 585, 598. 

8 The little Synod of Gangra, in Paphligonia, held in 343, adopted a series of 
canons directed against overemphasis of the ascetic life. In 1530 John 
Kymaeus, pastor at Homberg, used these canons in an attack upon the Ana- 
baptists. The book was published in 1537 with a preface by Luther. (See 
Weimar Ed. L, 45 ff.)- The canons to which Luther here refers (espe- 
cially Canon IX) are noted in Weimar Ed. L, 609, note c. 

On the Councils and the Churches 347 

stand what a monastery was when as yet there was no monas- 
tery enclosed with walls. 

But just as happens in a garden where the suckers grow 
far higher than the true, fruit-bearing shoots, so it goes also 
in the garden of the Church ; these new saints, who grow out 
at the side and yet want to be Christians and live from the 
sap of the tree, increase more mightily than the true, old 
saints of the Christian faith and life. And now that I have 
come to that, I must tell what I have noticed in the histories. 
St. Bernard was an abbot for thirty-six years, and in those 
years founded one hundred and sixty houses of his order, 1 
and everyone knows what kind of monasteries the Cister- 
cians have; they may have been smaller, perhaps, at that 
time, but now they are regular princedoms. I will say still 
more. At that time, i.e., in the reigns of Emperors Henry 
III, IV, and V, within a period of twenty years, many 
princely monastic orders sprang up, Grandiomontensians, 1 
Reformed Regular Canons, 8 Carthusians* and Cistercians. 5 
And what has come of it in the four hundred years since 
then ? I verily believe that one might say it has rained and 
snowed monks, and it would be no wonder if there were no 
town or village left where there was not a monastic house 
or two, or at least a terminary or stationary.' The histories 
blame Emperor Valentinian because he used monks in war. 7 
To be sure ! The idle people were getting too many ! We 
read also of some of the kings of France that they had to 
forbid men, especially serfs, to become monks, for they 
sought freedom under the cowl and everybody was running 
into the monasteries. 

The world wants to be cheated. If you want to catch 
many robins or other birds, you must put an owl on the trap 
or lime-rod and you will get them. So when the devil wants 

1 For the source of this statement see SCHAEPER, op. c it . , 104; Weimar 
Ed., L. 610, note b. 
"The order of Grammont, founded 1073. 
8 The Augustinian Canons, founded after 1059. 

* Founded by Bruno of Cologne in 1084. 

* Founded 1098. 

6 Names given to monastic beggars. Cf. Vol. II, p. 135, n.2. 

T Luther confuses Valentinian and his colleague Valens. It was Valens who 
compelled Egyptian monks to enter the army. He also compelled monks who 
had withdrawn from the world to escape civic burdens to return, and assume 
them. Cf. Realencyk. 20, 392, 

248 On the Councils and the Churches 

Matt. to catch Christians, he has to set up a monk's cowl or, as 
6:16 Christ calls it, a sour, hypocritical face; then we wonder 
more at these owls than at the true sufferings, blood, wounds, 
death, and resurrection, endured because of our sin, which 
we see and hear in Christ our Lord. Thus we fall, in a 
crowd and with all our might, away from the Christian faith 
and upon the new holiness, that is, we fall into the snares 
and traps of the devil. We must always have something new. 
Christ's death and resurrection are old, and so are faith and 
love; they are common and therefore can have no more 

u Tim. value, but we must have new things to tickle our ears, as 
4:3 St. Paul says. It serves us right, since our ears itch so that 
we can no longer endure the old, real truth, ut acervi- 
m u s, 1 that we load upon ourselves great heaps of new doc- 
trines, as has happened and will continue to happen. The later 
councils, especially the papal councils (for they were after- 
wards almost all papal) not only left these new good works 
uncondemned, but exalted them high above the old good 
works throughout the world, so that the pope canonized, or 
exalted, many saints from the monastic orders. 

At first it had, indeed, a fine appearance, but at last there 
came out of it a horrible abomination, as everyone added to 
it from day to day. St. Francis' 3 beginning looked fine, but 
the thing has now become so raw that they even put cowls 
on the dead, so that the dead may be saved in them. Is that 
not a terrible thing? That is the way it is when one begins 
to fall away from Christ; when one has started to fall, he 
cannot stop. What happened in our own time in the Neth- 
erlands? Madame Margaret* commanded that after her 
death she should be made a nun. It was done. They dressed 
her in a nun's garb, sat her at a table, offered her food and 
drink, and treated her as a princess is treated at table. Thus 
she did penance for her sin and became a holy nun. But 
when this had lasted some days, the pious Emperor Charles 
heard of it and had it stopped. If he had not done so, I 
believe that this example would have flooded the whole 

1 "That we heap up"; a reference to II Tim. 4:3. 

* Francis of Assdssi, the founder of the Franciscan order, died 1226. 

Margaret of Austria, aunt of Charles V and regent of the Netherlands, 

On the Councils and the Churches 249 

world. This is what the new holiness does and must do 
because it wants to improve on the true, old Christian holi- 
ness, which does not play the fool in this manner, but abides 
and constantly practices faith, love, humility, self-control, 
patience, etc., so that we see in it nothing abominable, but 
only lovely, gracious, quiet, sober, useful examples, pleasing 
to God and man. But the new holiness makes a great uproar 
with peculiar, new kinds of conduct so as to entice light 
souls to itself; it makes great pretensions, but there is n p 
nothing back of them, as St. Peter says. 2 

Again, Gerson 1 says of the Carthusians that they do right 
when they hold so stiffly to their rule as to eat no meat, even 
though they have to die for lack of it. Now in a case of 
this kind, if a godly physician observes that the sick man 
would be helped by a chicken-stew or a bit of meat, and not 
otherwise, they do not follow the physician, but the sick man 
must sooner die. Here I rather praise St. Augustine, who 
puts it into his rule that the physician's advice is to be asked, 
and says, 'They are not all of equal ability, and therefore are 
not all to be held alike." 3 That is right fine e p i e i k e i a 3 
and it does not compel them to remain monks forever, for 
the monastery was no prison, but a voluntary association of 
some priests/ Dr. Staupitz once told me that he had heard 
the bishop of Worms, who was a Dahlberg, 6 say that if St. 
Augustine had written nothing but his rule, we should have 
to say that he was an able and wise man. That is true. For 
he would have utterly condemned these Carthusians as 
murderers and their monasteries as veritable places of death, 
as in truth they are. At Erfurt I myself saw in the Car- 
thusian monastery a sick man walking with a crutch. He 
was still a young man. When I asked him whether they did 
not relieve him of duty in the choir and the watch, he said 
sadly, "I must go on."* 

It has served us right, however, God sent us His Son to be 

1 Join Gerson, professor at Paris and cardinal (d. 1429). He wrote a tract 
on tfcis special subject (De non esu c ami urn). 
Mine, 32, 1383. 

"Madness," or "moderation." Cf. II Cor. 10: 1. 

* Augustine organized his clergy into a wmaffric community. 
Johann von Bahlberg, bishop of Worms 1482-1503. 

"Ich nius fort. Here used in the sense of "I must die.*' 

250 On the Councils and the Churches 

teacher and saviour; not satisfied with that, He himself 

preaches from His high throne in heaven and says, H u n c 

Matt. audite, "Hear ye Him/' With the apostles, we ought 

17:5 to fall down and think that we heard nothing else in all the 

world; but we allow the Father and the Son to preach in 

vain and go on and invent our own preaching. Therefore 

P *if! 2 ft " oes as Psalm Ixxxi says, "My people hearken not to my 

voice: so I let them go after the imagination of their 

heart." Thence come such fine ethelothreskeiai 

and apheidiai (Colossians ii) , "Self -chosen spirituality 

and mercilessness to our own bodies/' 1 so that we destroy 

our own lives, though God has commanded that we are to 

care for the body, and not to kill it. Do you not think that 

& m - if according to St. Augustine's rule and St. Paul's doctrine 

13:14 they had let the physicians advise them about the bodies of 

the religious, especially women, it would have helped many 

a fine person, who must otherwise have gone mad or died, 

as experience taught us? But this has been the time of 

wrath, in which this new and mad holiness has had to reign, 

as a punishment on the world. 

Fifth. A council has no power to impose upon Chris- 
tians new ceremonies, such as feast-days, festivals, food, 
drink, garb, that are to be observed on pain of mortal sin 
or at peril of conscience. If they do this, there stands St- 
Augustine to Januarius, and says, Hoc genus liberas 
habet observationes, 2 and Christ appointed few 
ceremonies. Since a council has no power to impose them, 
we have power to omit them ; nay, St. Paul forbids us to 
CoL 2:16 keep them, in Colossians ii saying, "Let not your conscience 
be troubled over a part of days and fasts, food or drink, 
etc." 3 

Sixth. A council has the power, and is bound, to con- 
demn such ceremonies according to the Scriptures, for they 
are unchristian and set up a new idolatry, or service of God 
that God has not commanded, but forbidden. 

Seventh. A council has no power to interfere in 

1 "Self-imposed devotions and rigorous discipline," Moffatt. 

"Observance of things of this kind is free." 

B Luther's rendering of this text follows the Vulgute, 

On the Councils and the Churches 251 

worldly law and government, for St. Paul says, "He who n i 
will serve God in spiritual strife must cast off worldly 2v 

Eighth. A council has the power, and is bound, to 
condemn attempts of this kind and new laws, according to 
the Scriptures, that is, to cast the pope's decretals into the 

Ninth. A council has no power to make statutes or 
decrees that seek nothing else than tyranny, that is, statutes 
which give the bishops authority and power to command 
what they will and make everybody tremble and obey. On 
the contrary, it has the power, and is bound, to condemn such 
things according to Holy Scripture, I Peter v, "Ye shall I p< ( 
not lord it over the people" ; and Christ says V o s n o n L " 
sic, 1 "He that would be highest, let him be your servant." 22 

Tenth. A council has power to appoint some cere- 
monies, provided, first, that they do not strengthen the 
bishops' tyranny! second, that they are needful and profit- 
able to the people and provide a fine and orderly discipline 
and way of life. Thus it is needful to have some days and 
also some places for people to assemble; likewise definite 
hours for preaching, distributing the sacraments, and for 
praying, singing, and praising and thanking God. So St. 
Paul says, in I Corinthians xiv, "Let all things be done in j G 
order and decently." With such measures the bishops' 14 
tyranny is not sought, but the need, the profit, and the 
order of the people. In short, we must have such things, 
and cannot do without them, if the Church is to abide. 

Yet if anyone from necessity, illness, hindrance, or what- 
ever it may be, can sometimes not keep these rules, it is not 
a sin. It is all for his benefit, not for that of the bishop and 
if he is a Christian, he will not seek his own harm. What 
difference does it make to God if a man does not will to be 
in such an assembly? Every man will find that out for him- 
self. In a word, if a man is a Christian he is not bound by 
such ordinances ; he will keep them rather than break them, 
if he can be unhindered. Therefore, no law can be made 

* "Ye shall not be so." 

252 On the Councils and the Churches 

for him about such matters; he would be glad to do more 
than such a law would demand. But if a man haughtily and 
proudly and wantonly despises them, let him go ; for such a 
man will despise higher laws, God's laws or man's. 
What is Perhaps you might say here, "What will you finally make 
^ tht councils if you clip their powers so close? In this 
way a pastor, or even a school-teacher (to say nothing of 
parents!) would have more power over the Church than a 
council." I reply: Do you think, then, that the offices of 
pastor and school-teacher are so small that they might not 
be compared with the councils ? If there were no pastors or 
bishops, where would a council be gathered from? If there 
were no schools, where would we get pastors? I speak of 
school-teachers who not only teach children and young people 
the arts, but train them in Christian doctrine and faithfully 
impress it upon them, and of such pastors as teach God's 
Word faithfully and purely. I can easily show that the 
poor, insignificant pastor at Hippo, St. Augustine taught 
more than all the councils (to say nothing of the most holy 
popes at Rome, whom I fear to mention!) I will go even 
farther and say that more is given us in the Children's 
Creed 1 than in all the councils, and the Lord's Prayer and 
the Ten Commandments teach more than all the councils 
teach; and not only do they teach, but they guard against 
the preaching of anything new that is contrary to the old 
doctrine. God help me, how the papists will tear these 
words out of their connection, shout them to bits, torture 
them to death, and prove that they are self -contradictory, 
but meanwhile they will let the reasons for my saying them 
remain; for they are pious and honorable people, who can 
do nothing but calumniate and lie, and I really ought to be 
afraid of them; but then God would not forgive me. I can- 
not do it and must let them go on slandering and lying. 

But now let you and me talk about this thing. What can 
a council do, or what is its value? Listen to their own 
words. Anathematizamus, that is their office; "We 
condemn!" Indeed, they speak far more humbly and say, 

*The Apostles' Creed. 

On the Councils and the Churches 253 

not, "We condemn," but Anathematizatecclesia, 
"The holy Christian Church condemns." The council's con- 
demnation would not frighten me, but the holy Church's 
condemnation would slay me in an instant because of the 
Man who says, "I am with you alway, even to the end of Matt x 
the world." This Man's condemnation is not to be endured ! 
But the councils, in citing the holy Christian Church as the 
true supreme Judge on earth, confess that they are not arbi- 
trary judges, but that the judge is the Church, which 
preaches, believes, and confesses the Holy Scriptures, as we 
shall hear. A thief or murderer could enslave the judge, 
if he were only an individual man, but the law and the land 
are united in the judge and he is their servant; of these the 
criminal must be afraid. 

A council, then, is nothing else than a consistory or court 1 The 
in which the judges, after hearing the parties, give their ver- Coimdl 
diet, but with proper humility, saying, "According to the law 
our office isanathematizare, 'to condemn* ; not, how- 
ever, according to our own idea or will, or to newly invented 
law, but according to the old law, which is recognized as law 
throughout the empire." Thus a council condemns even a 
heretic, not according to its own opinion, but according to the 
imperial law, i.e., according to the Holy Scriptures, which 
they confess to be the law of the holy Church. This law, 
empire, and judge is verily to be feared on peril of eternal 
damnation, for the law is God's Word, the empire is God's 
Church, and the judge is the officer, or servant, of both. 

The servant, or judge, of this empire is not, however, the 
council alone, but every pastor and school-master. More- 
over a council cannot exercise its judicial office everlastingly 
and without interruption, for the bishops cannot always re- 
main gathered together, but can only come together in cer- 
tain times of need and anathematize, or be judges. So, if an 
Arius in Alexandria grows too strong far his pastor or 
bishop attaches the people to him, and draws in other pastors 
and people, even from the country, so that the pastor at 

1 Co n s i st o r i u m , Hof e g e r J c h t , Ca rn erge r i ch t oder 
desgleicben. The terms are borrowed from the Roman Law, and were 
names for courts existing in Germany in Luther's time. 

254 On the Councils and the Churches 

Alexandria gets the worst of it and in his judicial office can 
no longer defend the law of the empire, that is, the true 
Christian faith ; in such a need and at such a time, the other 
pastors and bishops ought to run with all their might to the 
help of the pastor of Alexandria against Arius, defend the 
true Christian faith, and condemn Arius in order to save 
others, so that such a miserable state of affairs may not get 
the upper hand entirely. If the pastors were unable to 
come, the good Emperor Constantine ought to contribute his 
power, and help the bishops together. It is just as when a 
fire breaks out; if the man who lives in the house cannot 
subdue it, all the neighbors ought to run together and help 
put it out ; and if they do not run together, the government 
must help, and command that they must run together, and 
anathematize or condemn the fire, so that the other houses 
may be saved. 1 

The council, therefore, is the great servant, or judge, for 
cite and this empire and its law; but when the time of need is past, 
tfws it has completed its duty. So, in temporal government, the 
Diets high, great judges have to take hold, when the lower, smaller 
Courts would be too weak to resist the evil, until the matter 
comes, at last, to the highest, greatest court, the diet, which 
cannot be perpetual, but breaks up again, when the necessity 
has been met, and commits the case to the lower courts 
again. At the diets, however, it happens now and then that 
new laws and more laws must be made and old ones must be 
altered and amended or even abolished, and one cannot speak 
perpetually of a perpetual law; for this is a temporal gov- 
ernment, which rules over temporal things that alter and 
change, and therefore the laws that are made for these tem- 
poral things must also change. If the thing for which the 
law is made is no longer there, then the law is nothing. Thus 
the city of Rome no longer has the ranks and the organiza- 
tion that it once had, and therefore the laws that were made 
for these things are dead and no longer in force. Transient 
things have transient laws. 

But in the empire of the Church the rule is, "God's Word 

*C. Vol. II, p. 78. 

On the Councils and the Churches 255 

Isa. 40:8 

abideth forever/* Men must judge according to it and not Th* 
make new or other words of God, or establish new or other c . oun " 
articles of faith.^ Therefore pastors and school-masters are^ sand 
the lowly, but daily, permanent, perpetual judges who inces- school* 
santly anathematize, that is, guard against the devil and his 
raging. A council, since it is a great judge, must make old 
and great rascals good, or kill them, but it cannot produce 
any others; a pastor and a school-master have to do with 
small, young rascals, and are constantly producing new peo- 
ple to be bishops and, if necessary, to form councils. A coun- 
cil chops the great limbs off the trees or roots the evil trees 
out altogether; but a pastor and a school-master produce 
young trees and saplings in the garden. They have a pre- 
cious office and work and are the Church's finest jewels; they 
preserve the Church. Therefore, all lords should do their 
part to see that pastors and schools are preserved ; for if we 
cannot have councils, the parishes and schools, small though 
they are, are perpetual and useful councils. 

One sees how highly the ancient emperors prized the par- 
ishes and schools by the richness of the endowments which 
they gave them. That these were originally schools is shown 
by the names, provost, dean, scolasticus, cantor, 
canons, vicars, custodians, etc, 1 But what has come out o 
them? Lord God ! Would that they still were willing to do 
something, remain what they were, keep what they had, were 
princes and lords, but introduced hours of study again and 
compelled the canons, vicars, and choir-pupils to listen to 
lectures on Holy Scripture, so that they might again have 
something of the form of schools in order that we could 
have pastors and bishops, and they might be helping to rule 
the Church ! O Lord God ! What immeasurable good they 
could do the Church ! And God would permit them to have 
their wealth and power, if they were to amend their shame- 
ful life! But our sighs and complaints are vain. They 
neither hear nor see; they let the parishes be laid waste 
and the people, without God's Word, become rough and 
wild. I have heard from people whom I must believe that 

*Cf. Smalcald Articles, Pt. II, Art. III. JACOBS, Book of 
Concord, 17 1 

Vol. V 17 

256 On the Councils and the Churches 

in many dioceses there are two, three, and four hundred 
good parishes vacant. 1 Is not that a terrible, horrible thing 
among Christians? May God in heaven have mercy on us 
and hear our wretched sighings and laments ! Amen. 

To finish, at last, this matter of the councils, I hold that 
everyone can get from what has been said, an understanding 
of what a council is, and what its rights, powers, office, and 
work are, also of what councils are true and what are false 
councils. Their duty is to confess and defend the old faith 
against new articles of faith; also not to set up new good 
works against the old good works, but to defend the old good 
works against the new good works. To be sure, he who 
defends the old faith against the new faith, also defends 
the old good works against the new good works. For as is the 
faith, so are its fruits, viz., good works, though the two 
councils 2 did not see this consequence ; otherwise they would 
have condemned Eutyches not only because of the faith, 
which they did, but also because of his monkery, which they 
did not. On the contrary, they rather confirmed the latter 
and thus proved that they were poor logicians, stating a pre- 
mise and not drawing the conclusion, and this becoming a 
plague to the whole world, for they had the same fault with 
regard to good works that Nestorius and Eutyches had with 
regard to faith. That is to say, God wills not only to 
make us children in faith, but in logic, too, He will hold us 
fools and count us as Eutyches and Nestorius, so that he 
may humble us. The theology of Nestorius and Eutyches 
was indeed condemned, but their bad logic always remains in 
the world, as at the beginning, affirming the premise and not 
admitting the conclusion. Why say much about it? Though 
you have all the councils, that does not yet make you a 
Christian ; they give you too little. And though you have all 
the fathers, they, too, do not give you less than enough. You 
must go to the Holy Scriptures, where everything is abun- 
dantly given, or to lie catechism, 8 where it is given in brief ; 

1 C. Luther's Preface to the Smalcald Articles (JACOBS, op. c i t . , 

a Ephesus and Chalcedon. 

*The Decalogue, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer, not the commentary on 
them, which we know by that name. 

On the Councils and the Churches 257 

and there you will find far more than in all the councils and 

Finally. A council should have to do only with mat- coun- 
ters of faith, and that only when the faith is in special need, c^^ 
Openly evil works can be condemned, and good works admin- Paittl 
istered at home by temporal government, pastors, and par- 
ents. But false good works belong to matters of faith, be- 
cause they corrupt the true faith. Therefore they, too, 
belong in the council if the pastors are too weak, though the 
councils, as I have said, did not trouble themselves about 
them, except one or two of the little councils, like that at 
Gangra, mentioned above. 1 Ceremonies ought to be left out 
of the councils entirely, back in the parishes, where they are 
at home, nay, in the schools, and the school-masters ought to 
be the masters of ceremonies, along with the pastors, for all 
the rest of the people learn the ceremonies from those who 
go to school, without rules and bother. 

For example, what, when, and how the school-boys sing 
or pray in church, the people learn afterwards, and what they 
sing by the bier or at the grave, the others also learn. If they 
kneel down and fold their hands when the school-master: 
raps with his stick at the singing of the Et homo factus 
e s t , 2 the crowd does it after them, and if they doff their 
hats and bow their knees whenever the name of Jesus Christ 
is mentioned, and perform other Christian acts, the crowd 
does these things after them, without any preaching, moved 
by living examples. But under the pope all the ceremonies 
have been taken out of the schools and parishes except 
where the pope has sought his own tyranny, with foods, 
fasts, feasts, etc. Yet here, too, we must use moderation, 
in order that, in the end, the ceremonies may not become too 
many. Above all, however, we must see to it that they are 
not considered necessary to salvation, but only as serving 
outward discipline and order. They can be changed at any 
time and cannot be commanded as perpetual laws in the 
Church, as that ass of a pope does, and set forth in the books 

*See above, p. 246. 

a "And was made man," from the Nicene Creed. 

258 On the Councils and the Churches 

with tyrannical threats ; for they are entirely external, hodily, 
transitory, changeable things. 

According to this, we would have, in our time, matters 
that would be more than important enough for the calling of 

Council a c otmc tt- F r we poor, wretched Christians, weak in faith 
and real M i s e r g i ; that is, "work-haters," those of us 
who are left would have to accuse the pope and his fol- 
lowers on the ground of the article of StPeter, of which you 

Acts have heard before, 1 viz., that it is tempting God when one 

15:10 lays upon believers intolerable burdens, which neither we 

nor our forefathers have been able to bear, and which 

the pope and his followers, especially, will not touch with 

L n e ;46 one finger. St. Peter, indeed, speaks of the law of Moses, 
which God Himself commanded, but the pope has oppressed 
us with his foul, dirty, stinking burdens, so that the holy 
Church has become his privy chamber, and what issues from 
him has had to be worshiped as God. Moreover he has set 
fire to and burned up, not one or two churches, as did Arius 
and his like, but the whole Christian Church, and has utterly 
wiped out, so far as he could, St. Peter's old, true article of 
faith ; for that we must be saved only by the grace of Christ, 
as St. Peter testifies and as all Christendom from the begin- 
ning of the world has been saved, all patriarchs, prophets, 
kings, saints, etc.: this he calls heresy, and he has con- 
demned this article steadily, from the beginning, and cannot 

We call and cry for a council and beg the whole Church 
for counsel and help against this arch-burner of churches 
and slayer of Christians, so that we may get back again this 
article of St. Peter. But we demand, also, that no Nestorian 
or Eutychian logic be used, which admits or confesses one 
point, but denies the consequence, or other point- We de- 
mand the whole article, full and pure, as it was declared by 
St. Peter and taught by St. Paul. We demand, in a word, 
that everything be condemned whose condemnation is implied 
in this article 2 ; or, as St. Peter calls it, "the intolerable in> 
possible burden," and St. Augustine, "the countless burdens 

*Cf. above, pp. 188 S. 

*Dass man alleis verdamme was da folget ana dieaem 
Artickel verdammt sein. 

On the Councils and the Churches 253 

which the bishops have laid upon the Church.** 1 What good 
does it do to admit the first point, viz., that we must be jus- 
tified and saved only through the grace of Christ, and not 
allow the second point to follow from it? St. Paul says, Rom 
"If it is grace, then it is not works; if works, then it is not 11:6 
grace" ; and St. Peter, "If it is grace, then it is not the intol- 
erable burden; if it is the intolerable burden, then it is not 
grace, and it is tempting God." St. Augustine, too, says that 
since Christ would not burden the Church with many cere- 
monies, nay, would rather that it be free; therefore, it was 
not His will to have it oppressed by the countless burdens 
of the bishops, by means of which the Church has become 
worse than the Jews, who were burdened with God's laws 
but not, like the Church, with human, presumptuous, arbi- 
trary ordinances. 

We would have this logic of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. 
Augustine, which is the logic of the Holy Ghost. It admits 
the whole argument and does not break it up in Nestorian 
fashion, allowing the one point to be true and not allowing 
the other to be true, though the second follows from the 
first. Otherwise it would be like what is written of some of 
the kings of Israel and Judah, who established again the 
true worship of God but did not abolish the "high-places" 
and other altars and other worship. The prophet Elijah calls 
this "limping between the two sides," and we Germans call 
it "wanting two brothers-in-law with one sister." They 
wanted to give one people two kinds of gods, or, if they 
reformed things, to let another, strange god stay alongside 
the only God. They were stupid, Nestorian logicians, con- 
fessing that only one God must be worshiped and yet not 
seeing that it must follow (or not letting it follow) that all 
other gods must be put away or they could not have the one 
God. Therefore, in the council which we demand we shall 
not tolerate any Nestorius, who gives us one thing and takes 
from us the other, without which we cannot keep what he 
gives us and is a regular give-and-taker. a For if it is granted 

*In the often quoted letter to Januarius, Migne, xxxiii, 201. 
3 Luther's Geber-nehmer would, perhaps, be best rendered by the 
colloquial Americanism, "injun-giver." 

260 On the Councils and the Churches 

us that the grace of Christ alone saves us, and if the conse- 
quence of that is not granted us, viz., that works do not 
save us, but it is maintained that works are necessary for 
satisfaction or for righteousness, that is the same thing as 
taking from us the first thing, which was granted us, namely 
that grace alone saves us, without works. Thus we keep 
nothing, and the evil has become only worse. 

I will say it in plain German! The pope, in a council, 
should not only utterly abolish all his tyranny of human 
commandments, but also hold with us that even the good 
works done according to God's commandments cannot help 
men to righteousness, to the blotting out of sin, to the attain- 
ment of God's grace, but that this can be done only by faith 
in Christ, who is a king of righteousness in us, by His pre- 
cious blood, death, and resurrection, whereby He has blotted 
out sin for us, made satisfaction, reconciled God, and re- 
deemed us from death, wrath, and hell. Therefore he should 
condemn and burn all his bulls, decretals, books about in- 
dulgence, purgatory, monasticism, saint-worship, and pil- 
grimages, together with all the countless lies and idolatries, 
because they rage directly against this article of St. Peter's. 
He should also return all that has bought, stolen, robbed, 
plundered, or won, especially his falsely invented primacy, 
which he boasts as so necessary to salvation that no one can 
be saved who is not subject to him; for the pope's hat did 
not die for my sins and its name is not Christ, and all 
Christians, before him and under him, have been made holy 
and saved without his hat. 

This, I think, is a case important enough for the holding 
of a stately, sharp, mighty council. Emperor and kings 
ought to do their part here, and force the pope into it, if he 
is unwilling, as the emperors did in the four chief councils. 
But not all the bishops, abbots, monks, doctors, and the 
worthless rag-picker's rabble and great tail 1 ought to come 
to it. If so, it will be a council that spends the first year 
in arriving and in quarreling about who shall have the 
highest place, who precede and who follow ; the second year 

a i.e., the hangers-on of the papal court. 

On the Councils and the Churches 261 

in revelling, banqueting, racing, and fencing ; the third year 
in other matters, burning a John Hus or two, perhaps ; mean- 
while the cost would be mounting until it would be enough 
to support a campaign against the Turks. On the contrary, 
it would be necessary to summon from all lands the people 
who were really learned in the Scriptures and whose minds 
and hearts were seriously concerned with God's honor, the 
Christian faith, the welfare of souls, and the peace of the 
world. Among them there should also be some intelligent 
and faithful men of the worldly estate, 1 for the case con- 
cerns them, too. If Sir Hans von Schwarzenberg 3 were 
living, he could be trusted, and men like him. It would be 
sufficient if there were three hundred of them altogether, 
picked men, to whom land and people could be trusted. So 
the first council 8 had only three hundred and eighteen mem- 
bers from all the lands which the Turks and our monarchs 
now rule, though seventy of them were false and Arians ; the 
second, at Constantinople, had one hundred and fifty; the 
third, at Ephesus, two hundred; the fourth, at Chalcedon, 
had six hundred and thirty, almost as many as the others 
put together, and they were quite unequal to the fathers of 
Nicaea and Constantinople. 

Moreover, the matters of all countries, which no one can 
or will judge, and old, obsolete, bad practices must not be 
raked up and all dumped on the neck of the council. There 
must be a Constantine there, 4 who will rake up all these 
things and throw them into the fire, telling them to let these 
matters be judged and decided at home, in their own lands, 
but bidding them also get down to business and get away as 
quickly as possible. Then the pope's heresy, nay, his abomi- 
nations, would be read out, point by point, and all of it 
shown to have been invented, contrary to St. Peter's arti- 
cle and the ancient, true faith of the Church, which has held 
St. Peter's article since the beginning of the world; and 
it would be quickly condemned. 

*i.e., laymen. 

a jahn r Baron von Schwarzenberg (14634528) imperial chamberlain in 1521, 
later an official of th! Margrave of Brandenburg- Ansbach. Cf . A 1 1 g e - 
meine Peutsche Biographic. 

8 The Council of Nicaea, 

*C1 above, p. 177. 

262 On the Councils and the Churches 

NO Hope "Nay," you say, "such a council is never to be hoped for." 
^* I think so myself, but if one is going to talk about it, and 
Council demand a council or wish for one, then one must wish for 
such a council, or else let it all go and wish for none, and 
keep quiet. The first council, at Nicsea, was such a council, 
and the second, at Constantinople, and these examples ought 
to be followed. And I am citing them to show that it would 
be the duty of emperor and kings, since they, too, are 
Christians, to assemble such a council for the rescue of 
many thousand souls whom the pope, with his tyranny and 
his avoidance of a council (so far as in him lies!), allows 
to go to destruction, and who, by means of a council, could 
all be brought back to St. Peter's article and the true, ancient 
Christian faith, though they must otherwise be lost. They 
cannot get this doctrine of St. Peter's, because they neither 
hear nor see anything of it. 

Even though other monarchs would do nothing toward 
such a great council, the Emperor Charles and the German 
princes could hold a provincial council in Germany. 1 Some 
think that a schism would grow out of that; but if we did 
our part and earnestly sought only God's honor and the 
welfare of souls, who knows whether God could not yet turn 
the hearts of the other monarchs, so that in time they would 
praise and accept the judgment of this council ; for it cannot 
happen suddenly. But if Germany were to accept it, it would 
have an echo in other lands also, whither it cannot, or can 
hardly, reach without a great preacher like a council, and a 
strong voice which reaches far. 

Ah, well ! If we must despair of a council, let us commend 
the case to the true judge, our merciful God. Meanwhile, 
we shall further the little councils and young councils, the 
parishes and schools, and press St. Peter's article in every 
possible way, and maintain it against all the damned new 
articles of faith and new good works, with which the pope 
has flooded the world. I shall comfort myself when I see 
the children wearing bishop's masks, thinking that God 

1 Lttflier had made this proposal nineteen years earlier. See, in this 
edition, An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility, Vol. II, 
61 ff. 77 ff. 

On the Councils and the Churches 263 

makes, and will make real bishops of these play-bishops and, 
on the other hand, will hold those who, according to their 
name, ought be real bishops as play-bishops and mockers at 
His majesty; as Moses says, "I will make them wroth with Beut. 
that which is not my people and move them to bitterness 32;21 
with a foolish people, because they have made me wroth with 
that which is not God." It will not be the first time that 
He has cast off bishops; He threatened it in Hosea, "Be- 
cause thou rejectest the doctrine, I will also reject thee, that 
thou shalt not be my priest." Et f actum est ita, et 
i t a f i t - 1 

Let that suffice about the councils. We shall now speak, 
at the end, about the Church. 

1 "And so it came to pass and so comes to pass.*' 


As they cry out "Fathers and Councils !" and do not know 
what fathers and councils are, but would only deafen us 
with the words, so they cry also about the Church; but as 
for saying what, who, or where the Church is, they do not 
render either the Church or God the service of asking the 
question or thinking about it. They would like to have men 
take them, pope, cardinals, bishops, for the Church and 
allow them, under this glorious name, to be nothing but 
pupils of the devil, who can practice nothing but knavery and 

Well then, setting aside many writings and many divisions 
"* * t ^ ie word church, we will this time stay by the Children's 
church Creed, which says, "I believe one holy Christian Church, the 
** Communion of Saints." There the Creed indicates clearly 

what the Church is, namely, "a communion of saints," that 
is, a group or assembly of such people as are Christians and 
holy. That is a Christian, holy group, 1 or Church. But 
this word "church" is not German and does not convey the 
sense or idea that is to be taken from this article. 3 
Actg 19: In Acts xix, the chancellor 8 calls eccles ia the assem- 
39, 41 "bly or People who had run together in a crowd on the 
market-place, and says, "It can be settled in a regular 
assembly"; 4 and again, "When he had thus spoken he dis- 
missed the assembly." In this passage and others, e c c 1 e - 
sia, or church, means nothing else than an assembled 
people, though they were heathen, and not Christians, just 
as the town-councilors summon the community to the town- 
hall. Now there are many peoples in the world, but the 
Christians are a peculiar people, a called people, and they 

* Luther's H a u e is here rendered "group/' 

*n ^ .,._,. ,. -, c f. o u the Papacy at Rome, in this edition, 

n> CAV and RV) '* " The s*etary of state" (Moffatt). 




On the Councils and the Churches 265 

are therefore called not simply ecclesia, "church," or 
"people," but santeta, catJholica, Christiana, 
that is, "a Christian, holy people/' which believes in Christ! 
Therefore, it is called a Christian people and has the Holy 
Ghost, who sanctifies it daily, not only through the forgive- 
ness of sins, as the Antinomians 1 foolishly believe, but by 
the abolition, purging out, and slaying of sins, and because 
of this they are called a holy people. "Holy Christian 
Church/' then, is the same thing as "a people that is Chris- 
tian and holy," or as we are accustomed to say, "the holy 
Christendom/' 3 or "the entire Christendom"; in the Old Tes- 
tament it is called "God's people/' 

If these words had been used in the Creed : "I believe that The 
there is a holy Christian people/' it would have been easy 
to avoid all the misery that has come in with this blind, ob- 
scure word "church" ; for the term "Christian, holy people" 
would have brought along with it, clearly and powerfully, 
both understanding and the judgment on the question "What 
is and what is not a church?" One who heard the words 
"Christian, holy people" would have been able to decide 
off-hand, "The pope is not a people, still less a holy Chris- 
tian people." So, too, the bishops, priests, and monks are 
not a holy Christian people, for they do not believe in Christ, 
do not lead holy lives, and are the devil's wicked, shameful 
people. He who does not rightly believe in Christ, is not 
Christian or a Christian, and he who has not the Holy Ghost 
to resist sin, is not holy. Therefore they cannot be a Chris- 
tian, holy people, that is, sancta et catholica 

But because we use this blind word "church" in the Creed, 
the common man thinks of the stone house, which we call a 
church, and so the painters depict it; or if things turn out 
better, they paint the apostles, the disciples, and the Mother 
of God, as on Pentecost, with the Holy Ghost hovering over 

1 See above, p. 233f. 

3 Christenheit. InThePapacyatRome Luther tried, as many 
times afterwards, and here, to get away from the word K. i r c h e , "church." 
The word Christenheit was his favorite substitute 1 , but even that word 
has often to be translated "church" in order to render its meaning correctly. 

266 On the Councils and the Churches 

them. That will pass; but it is only the holy Christian 
Church of one time, the beginning. E c c 1 e s i a , however, 
ought to mean the holy Christian people, not only of the time 
of the apostles, who are long since dead, but clear to the end 
of the world, so that there is always living on earth a Chris- 
tian, holy people in which Christ lives, works, and reigns 
per redemptionem, through grace and forgiveness 
of sins, the Holy Ghost per vivificationem et 
sanctificationem, through the daily purging out of 
sins and renewal of life, so that we do not remain in sin, but 
can and should lead a new life in good works of all kinds, 
such as the Ten Commandments, or Two Tables of Moses, 
require, and not in the old, wicked works : that is St. Paul's 
teaching. But the pope and his followers have applied both 
the name and the picture of the Church to themselves alone 
and to his shameful, accursed crowd, under this blind word 
e c c 1 e s i a , "church." 

Nevertheless they give themselves the right name when 
"they call themselves e c c 1 e s i a (if we interpret it so as to 
Not the agree with their way of life) , either Romanaorsancta, 
titan*" anc ^ ^ not ac ^ ( as> i n( teed, ^y cannot) c a t h o 1 i c a . 
church For e c c 1 e s i a means "a people/' and that they are, as the 
Turks are also ecclesia, "a people.'* Ecclesia 
R o m a n a means "a Roman people" ; that, too, they are, 
and far more Roman than the heathen of ancient times were 
Roman. Ecclesia Romana sancta means "a holy 
Roman people," that, too, they are, for they have invented 
a far greater holiness than the Christian holiness, or than the 
holy Christian people have. Their holiness is a Roman 
holiness, Romanae eccle<siae, "a holiness of the 
Roman people," and they are now called even s a n c t i s - 
simi, sacrosancti, "the most holy," as Virgil speaks 
of sacra fames, sacra hostia 1 and Plautus of 
omnium sacerrimus, 3 for Christian holiness they 
-cannot endure. Therefore they cannot have the name "Chris- 
tian Church" or " Christian people," if only for the reason 
that Christian Church is a name and Christian holiness a 

* M Holy hunger (for gold)," "holy sacrifice. 1 * Aeneid III, 57. 
* "The. most holy one of all," Mostellaria IV, 2. 

On the Councils and the Churches 267 

thing that is common to all churches and all Christians in the 
world ; therefore, it is called catholicum. But this 
common name and common holiness they hold cheap and 
almost as nothing. In its stead, they have invented a pecu- 
liar, higher, different, better holiness than that of others. It 
is to be called sanctitas Romana et ecclesiae 
Romanae sanctitas, that is, "Roman holiness 1 and 
the holiness of the Roman people." 

For Christian holiness, or the holiness of universal Chris- 

tendom 1 is that which comes when the Holy Spirit gives 

people faith in Christ, according to Acts xv, that is, He 

makes heart, soul, body, works and manner of life new and 

writes God's commandments, not on tables of stone, but on ActslS:9 

hearts of flesh according to II Corinthians iii. To speak 

plainly, according to the first Table He gives knowledge of 3:3 

God, so that those whom He enlightens can resist all heresies, 

in true faith, and overcome all false ideas and errors, and 

thus remain pure in faith against the devil. He also gives 

strength and comfort to feeble, despondent, weak consciences 

against the accusations and attacks of sin, so that souls are 

not despondent and do not despair and are not terrified at 

torment, pain, death, and God's wrath and judgment, but 

strengthened and comforted in hope, are bold and joyful in 

overcoming the devil. Thus He also gives true fear and 

love of God, so that we do not despise God and murmur or 

grow angry at His marvellous judgments, but love, praise, 

thank, and honor Him for all that happens. This is a new, 

holy life in the soul according to the First Table of Moses. 

It is called tres virtutes theologicas, "the three 

chief virtues of Christians," faith, hope, and love; and the 

Holy Ghost, who gives them and does and works these things l ^** 3 

for Christians whom Christ has won, is therefore called 

Sanctificator, or Vivificator/ For the old 

Adam is dead $nd can do nothing, and must learn from the 

law that he can do nothing 'and is dead; he would not know 

it of himself. 

*Sanotifier, or Lifegiver. 

268 On the Councils and the Churches 

In the Second Table, and in the body, He also sanctifies 
Christians and it is of His gift that they willingly obey par- 
ents and overlords, conduct themselves peacefully and hum- 
bly, are not wrathful or revengeful or malicious, not lewd, 
adulterers, unchaste, but pure and chaste, whether they have 
wives and children or not ; and so forth. They do not steal 
or take usury, are not avaricious, do not cheat, etc., but work 
honorably, support themselves honestly, lend gladly, give and 
help whenever they can. Therefore, they do not lie, deceive, 
back-bite, but are kind, truthful, faithful, and reliable, and 
whatever else God's commandments require. This is done by 
the Holy Ghost, who sanctifies and awakens even the body 
to this new life, until it is completed in the life beyond. 
That is Christian holiness. There must always be such peo- 
ple on earth, even though there were but two or three of 
them, or they were only children ; of old folk, there are, sad 
to say, very few ! Those who are not of this sort ought not 
to count themselves Christians, and they ought not to be 
comforted, as one comforts Christians, with much talk about 
the forgiveness of sins and the grace of Christ, as the Anti- 
nomians do. 

For they/ rejecting and not understanding the Ten Com- 
mandments, preach much about the grace of Christ instead. 
They strengthen and comfort those who remain in sins, 
^j^ them that they shall not fear sins or be terrified at 
them, since through Christ, these are all done away ; and yet 
they see people going on, and let them go on, in open sins, 
without any renewal or improvement of their lives. From 
this one observes that they really do not understand the faith 
and Christ aright, and abolish Him even as they preach Him. 
For how can a man preach rightly about the works of the 
Holy Ghost in the First Table and speak about comfort, 
grace, forgiveness of sins, if he neither heeds nor practices 
the works of the Holy Ghost in the Second Table, which he 
can understand and experience, while he has never attempted 
or experienced those of the First Table? Therefore it is 
certain that they neither have nor understand either Christ 

x ie., The An,tincmuans Cf. above, p. 233 f. 

On the Councils and the Churches 269 

or the Holy Ghost, and their talk is mere foam on their 
tongues, and they are, as has been said, good Nestorians and 
Eutychians, who confess or teach Christ in the premise and 
deny Him in the conclusion, or idiomata ; that is, they teach 
Christ and destroy Him by teaching Him. 

That, then, is Christian holiness. The pope will not have 
it; he must have a peculiar holiness that is far holier. Men papal 
must be taught chasubles, tonsures, cowls, garb, food, f es- Holiness 
tivals, days, monkery, nunnery, masses, saint-worship, and 
countless other points about external, bodily, transitory 
things. That one lives among these things without faith, 
fear of God, hope, love, and the other works of the Holy 
Ghost according to the First Table, but substitutes for them 
misbelief, uncertainty of heart, doubt, despising of God, 
impatience toward Him, a false trust in works (which is 
idolatry!) 'instead of a trust in the grace of Christ or His 
merits, making one's own satisfaction by works, even selling 
the surplus 1 to others and taking in exchange the goods and 
wealth of all the world as though they had been well earned : 
all this is no hindrance and, in spite of it, a man can be holier 
than Christian holiness itself. 

So in regard to the Second Table. It matters not that 
they teach disobedience to parents and superiors, or that 
they murder, fight, set people at odds, envy, hate, take 
revenge, are unchaste, lie, steal, take usury, deceive, and 
practice all kinds of knavery to the limit. Just throw a sur- 
plice over your head and you are holy with the Roman 
church's holiness, and can be saved without Christian holi- 
ness. But we will not concern ourselves about these filthy 
people ; what we do for them is done in vain. V e n i t i r a 
dei super eos in finem, a asSt. Paul says. We I 
shall speak to one another about the Church. 2;16 

The Creed teaches us that a people of God must be on -nw 
earth and remain until the end of the world. This is an Marka 
article of faith, which cannot cease until that comes which 
it believes, as Christ promises, "I am with you even unto 

*The "treasury of merit" on which indulgences were based. Cf. Vol. L 
p. 20, n. 2. 
"The wrath of God cometh upon them at the last." 

270 On the Councils and the Churches 

Matt. the end of the world." But how can a poor, erring man 
28:20 know where this Christian, holy people in the world is? 
It ought to be in this life and on earth; for it believes that 
a heavenly nature and an eternal life are to come, but as yet 
at has them not; therefore it must be in this life and this 
world, and remain in them until the world's end. For it 
says, "I believe in another life," thereby confessing that it is 
not yet in that life, but believes in it, hopes for it, and loves 
it as its own true fatherland and life, though it must remain 
and endure, meanwhile, in exile, as we sing in the hymn to 
the Holy Ghost, "When we turn home again from this 
exile." 1 Of this we shall now speak. 

i.The First, This Christian, holy people is to be known by this, 

w<Mrd that it has God's Word, though in quite unequal measure, 

i COT. as St. Paul says. Some have it altogether pure, others not 

3:i2ff. entirely pure. Those who have it pure are called those who 

build on the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones; those 

who have it impure are they who build hay, straw, wood on 

the foundation, yet will be saved through fire. Of these 

more than enough has been said above. This is the main 

point. It is the high, chief, holy possession 3 from which the 

Christian people take the name "holy," for God's Word is 

holy and sanctifies everything it touches ; nay, it is the very 

7a<; holiness of God. Romans i says, "It is God's power, which 

saves all who believe thereon," and II Timothy iv, "It is all 

4.$' made holy by the Word of God and prayer"; for the Holy 

Ghost Himself administers it, and anoints and sanctifies the 

Church, that is, the Christian, holy people, with it 3 and not 

with the pope's chrism/ with which he anoints, or sanctifies 

fingers, garb, cloaks, cups, and stones. These things never 

teach us to love, believe, and praise God, and be godly. They 

only adorn the bag of worms, 6 but afterwards they fall apart 

1 The fourth line of the pre-ref ormation Pentecost-hymn, N u biten wir 
den hell gen g e i s t . 

3 Heiligthum. In the following discussion this word recurs continually. 
Each of the marks of the Church is called a H eiligthum, or Heilthum. 
The term ' holy ^ possession" has been chosen as the translation which best 
conveys its meaning. It was also the word for "relics," the wonder-working 
objects of reverence that were preserved in the churches, and on this idea 
Mather plays constantly. 

s ie., with the Word of God. 4 The holy oil 

5 Ma 4 e a sack, ie., the body, which goes to decay. 

On the Councils and the Churches 271 

and decay, with the chrism and whatever holiness is in it, and 
with the bag of worms itself. But this relic is the true 
relic, the true unction, which anoints to everlasting life, even, 
though you can have no papal tiara or bishop's mitre, but 
have to live and die bare and naked of body, as children, 
(and all of us), are baptized naked and without adornment. 

We speak, however, of the external Word orally preached 
by men like you and me. For Christ left this behind Him as 
an outward sign whereby His Church, His Christian, holy 
people in the world, was to be recognized. We speak, too, 
of this oral Word as it is earnestly believed and publicly 
confessed before the world, as He says, "He that conf esseth 
me before men, him will I confess before my Father and Matt - 
His angels"; for there are many who know it secretly, but 
will not confess it. Many have it and do not believe in it 
or act by it, for those who believe in it and act by it are few, M "** 
as the parable of the seed, in Matthew xiii, tells us: three 13:4 
parts of the field get it and have it, but only the fourth part, 
the fine, good field, "bringeth forth fruit with patience/' 

Wherever, therefore, you hear or see this Word preached, 
believed, confessed, and acted on, there do not doubt that 3.9 
there must be a true ecclesia sancta catholica, 
a Christian, holy people, even though it be small in numbers ; 
for God's Word does not go away empty (Isaiah Iv), but 55:11 
must have at least a fourth part, or a piece of the field. If 
there were no other mark than this one alone, it would still 
be enough to show that there must be a Christian church 
there; for God's Word cannot be present without God's 
people, and God's people cannot be without God's Word. 
Who would preach or listen to preaching, if no people of 
God were there? And what could or would God's people 
believe, if God's Word were not there? 

This is the thing that does all miracles, sets everything to 
rights, upholds everything, accomplishes everything, does 
everything, drives out all devils, pilgrimage-devils, indul- 
gence-devils, bull-devils, brotherhood devils, saints' devils, 
mass-devils, purgatory-devils, monastery-devils, priest-dev- 
ils, devils of turbulence, devils of sedition, heretic devils, 
pope devils, even antinomian devils ; but this does not hap- 
Vol V -18 

272 On the Councils and the Churches 

pen without outcries and disturbance, as is seen in the poor 
Mark i- men ^ ^ ar ^ * an( ^ * x - No, the devil must leave a cry and 
23, 26; an u P r ar behind him, when he goes out, as is evident in 
9:2<> ' Emser/ Eck, Cochlaeus, 2 Schmid/ Wetzel/ T 6 1 p e 1 , K n e - 
b e 1 , Filttz, R ii 1 1 z , B sow, ass and the rest of his cryers 
and writers. They are all mouths and members of the 
devil, through which he makes his outcries and uproars ; but 
It does them no good ; they must go out and cannot endure 
the power of the Word. They themselves admit that it is 
God's Word and Holy Scripture, but say that we can get it 
better from the fathers and councils. Let them go! It is 
enough for us to know that this chief thing, this chief relic 
produces, upholds, nourishes, strengthens, and guards the 
Church, as St. Augustine also says, Ecclesia Verbo 
dei generatur, alitur, nutritur, robora- 
t u r ; c but whoever they are that persecute it and condemn 
it, they give themselves a name by their own fruits. 

Second. God's people, or the Christian holy people, is 
2. Bap- known by the holy Sacrament of Baptism, when it is rightly 
t* 81 * taught and believed and used according to Christ's ordi- 
nance. That, too, is a public sign and precious, holy posses- 
sion 7 whereby God's people is made holy, for it is a holy 
bath of regeneration through the Holy Ghost, in which we 
Tit 3:5 bathe and are washed by the Holy Ghost from sin and death, 
as in the innocent, holy blood of the Lamb of God. Where 
you see this mark, know that the holy Christian people must 
be there, even though the pope does not baptize you or even 
If you know nothing about his holiness and power. The little 
children know nothing about that, though when they grow 
up they are, sad to say! led astray from their baptism, as 
ii Pet. St " . P . eter complains, in II Peter ii, "They entice through 
2 : i8 lasciviousness those who had escaped and who now walk in 

* Emser, Eck, see Vol. Ill, 212, 219, 277 ff, etc. 
*Rotzloffel, Luther's favorite name for Cochlaeus. 
8 Jolian Faber, bishop of Vienna, (d. 1541). 

* George Wet2el, for a time a Lutheran pastor at Nimegk, later an advo- 
cate of Catholic reform, 

B Names suggested, probably, by the sound of "Wetzel." They make little 
^^In 1 ? E " llsh > but were us ed as terms of the utmost contempt. 
of God " 1S be ltten > ra^ f or, nourished, strengthened by the Word 

7 He i It um, see above, p. 270, note 2. 

On the Councils and the Churches 273 

error." 1 No, do not be confused by the question of who does 
the baptizing; for baptism does not belong to the baptizer 
and is not given to him, but it belongs to him who is bap- 
tized, for whom it was established by God and to whom it is 
given; just as the Word of God does not belong to the 
preacher (except in so far as he hears and believes it) but 
to him who hears and believes, and to him it is given. 

Third. God's people, or a Christian, holy Church is 
known by the holy Sacrament of the Altar, when it is 
rightly administered according to Christ's institution and is ^^ 
believed and received. That, too, is a public mark and pre- Supper 
cious, holy possession, 3 bequeathed by Christ, whereby Hia 
people is made holy. By means of this sacrament it exer- 
cises itself in faith, and openly confesses that it is a Chris- 
tian people, as it does also by means of the Word of God 
and baptism. Here again you need not ask whether the pope 
says mass for you or not, consecrates you, confirms or 
anoints you, or puts a chasuble on you. 3 You can receive the 
mass with no clothing at all, as one may who is sick in bed, 
except that outward decency compels the wearing of decent 
and honorable clothing. Nor do you need to ask whether 
you have a tonsure or have been anointed;* nor need you 
argue about whether you are man or woman, young or old, 
any more than you would ask about all these things in con- 
nection with baptism or preaching. It is enough that you 
are consecrated and anointed with the high and holy oil of 
God, of the Word of God, of baptism, and of this sacra- 
ment; then you are anointed highly and gloriously enough 
and dressed in a sufficient priestly garb. Do not be led astray 
by the question whether the man who gives you the sacra- 
ment is holy, or whether he has two wives or not* For the 
sacrament does not belong to him who administers it, but to 
him to whom it is administered, unless he also takes it. In 
that case he is one of those who receive it, and it is given to 
him also. 

1 Luther follows the Vulgate, 

a H e i 1 1 u m , see above, p. 270, note 2. 

8 Messgewand, the vestment worn by^the^ priest at mass. 

4 A reference to the holy oiL t^ed in ordination, 

See below, p. 278. 

274 On the Councils and the Churches 

Where you see this sacrament administered with a right 
usage, be sure that God's people is there. It was said above 
about the Word, where God's Word is, there must the 
Church be ; so, also, where Baptism and the Sacrament 1 are, 
there must God's people be, and vice versa. For these holy 
things no one has, gives, practices, uses, or confesses, except 
God's people only, even though some false and unbelieving 
Christians are secretly among them. These people do not 
deprive the people of God of its holiness, especially so long 
as they are present secretly, for open sinners the Church, or 
people of God, does not tolerate in its midst, but punishes 3 
them and makes them holy ; or, if they will not suffer that, 
it casts them out of the holy place by means of the ban and 
holds them as heathen (Matthew xviii). 

Fourth. The people of God, or holy Christians, are 
known by the keys, 3 which they publicly use. Christ decrees, 

in Matthew xviii that if a Christian sins, he shall be rebuked, 
1 R i mF 

and if he does not amend his ways, he shall be bound and 

cast out; but if he amends, he shall be set free. This is 
the power of the keys. Now the use of the keys is two-fold, 
public, and private.* There are some whose consciences 
are so weak and timid, that even if they have received no 
public condemnation, they cannot be comforted unless they 
get a special absolution from the pastor. On the other hand, 
there are some who are so hard they will not have their 
sins individually forgiven and remitted even in their hearts 
and by the pastor. Therefore the use of the keys must be 
of both kinds, public and private. Now wherever you see 
the sins of some persons forgiven or rebuked, publicly or 
privately, know that God's people is there ; for if God's peo- 
ple is not there, the keys are not there; and if the keys are 
not there, God's people is not there. Christ has bequeathed 
them as a public mark and holy possession, 8 whereby the 
Holy Ghost, won through Christ's death, imparts holiness 
anew to fallen sinners and by them Christians confess that 
they are a holy people, under Christ, in this world ; and those 

1 i.e., The Sacrament of the 1 Altar. * Or "rebukes." 

8 The "power of the keys*' is the power to forgive ains. See below. 

* Or "general" and "particular." "Heiltum; see above, p, 270. note 2. 

On the Councils and the Churches 275 

who will not be converted and made holy again are to be 
cast out of this holy people; that is, they are to be bound and 
excluded by means of the keys, as will happen to the Anti- 
nomians if they do not repent. 

You must not think of these keys, however, as the pope's 
two keys which he has turned into tools with which he picks 
the locks to the treasure-chests and crowns of all kings. 1 If 
he will not "bind" or rebuke sin either publicly or privately 
(and he will not!), then do you rebuke and "bind" it in 
your parish; and if he will not "loose," or forgive it, then 
do you "loose'* and forgive it in your parish. His "reserv- 
ing" and "binding," and his "relaxing" and dispensation 
make you neither holy nor unholy, since he cannot have the 
keys, but only lock-picking tools. The keys belong, not to 
the pope, as he lyingly says, but to the Church, that is, to 
Christ's people, God's people, the holy Christian people 
throughout the world, or wherever there are Christians. 
They cannot all be at Rome, unless the whole world were 
at Rome, and that has not happened yet* As Baptism, the 
Sacrament, and God's Word do not belong to the pope but 
to the Church, so with the keys, they are claves eccle- 
s i a e a , not claves papae. 1 

Fifth. The Church is known outwardly by the fact 
that it consecrates or calls ministers, 3 or has offices which M * ni * try 
they occupy. For we must have bishops, pastors, or preach- 
ers, to give, administer and use, publicly and privately, the 
four things, or precious possessions, 4 that have been men- 
tioned, for the sake of and in the name of the Church, or 
rather because of their institution by Christ, as St. Paul Epk 
says, in Ephesians iv, Accepit dona in 4:11 
bus, 8 "and gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, 
teachers and governors, etc." The whole group cannot do 
these things, but must commit them, or allow them to be 

1 Luther had previously discussed this subject at length in his work O n t h e 
Keys (1530). Weimar Ed., XXX a , 435 ff.; Erlangen Ed. XXXI, 
126 ff. 

* "The Church's keys, not the pope's keys." 


*Heiltu<m. See ahove, p. 270, note 2, 

8 "He received gifts among meto.'* Luther is quoting, as usual* from mem* 
oty, and confuses Ephu 4: 3 with Pa. 68: 19, from which the Ephesian passage 

276 On the Councils and the Qmrches 

committed, to someone. What would happen if everyone 
wanted to speak or administer the sacraments and no one 
would yield to another? This duty must be committed to 
one person, and he alone must be allowed to preach, bap- 
tize, absolve, and administer the sacraments; all the rest 
must be content with this and agree to it. Wherever you 
see this, be assured that God's people, the Christian, holy 
people, is present. 

It is true, indeed, that the Holy Ghost has made excep- 
tion, in this matter, of women, children, and incompetent 
I Tim folk, and, except in cases of necessity ? chooses only qualified 
3:2; males. Thus we read here and there in St. Paul's epistles 
Tit i:6 that a bishop must be apt to teach, pious, and the husband 
I Cot. ^ one wife and in I Corinthians xiv, that a woman shall 
14:34 not teach in the assembly. In a word, it shall be a well- 
prepared, selected man, and children, women, and other per- 
sons are not qualified for it, though they are qualified to hear 
God's Word and to receive baptism, the Sacrament, and abso- 
I Pet lution, and are true, holy fellow-Christians, 1 as St. Peter says. 
3:7 This distinction is made in Nature and in God's creation also, 
where no woman (still less children and fools !) can or ought 
have rulership, as experience tells us, and Moses says, in 
3:16 Genesis iii, "Thou shalt be in subjection to thy husband." 
The Gospel does not abolish this natural law, but confirms it 
as the ordinance and creation of God. 

Here the pope, with his loud-mouthed uproar-makers for 
the devil 3 will interrupt me, and say: "St Paul speaks not 
isteti only of pastors and preachers, but also of apostles, evan- 
gelists, prophets, and other high spiritual classes; 3 there- 
fore there must be in the Church higher classes than the 
pastors and preachers. Where now, Sir Luther?" Where? 
This is where! If they will become apostles, evangelists, 
prophets, or will show me one such; oh, what folly I am 
talking if they will show me one person among them who 
is worth as much as a school-boy, or who can do as much 
with Holy Scripture as a seven-year-old girl, I will give 

1 Le. y Fellow-Christians with the ministers. 
3 See above, p. 271f. 
Or "higher clergy." 

On the Councils and the Churches 277 

up. Now I know for certain that an apostle, evangelist, 
prophet can do more than a seven-year-old girl. I speak in 
respect of the Holy Scriptures and of faith; for that they 
can do more in doctrines of men and in rascality, that I 
thoroughly believe, even more strongly than I believe in 
God, because they are proving it before my eyes by the 
things that they are doing. Therefore, as they are the 
Church, so they are also apostles, evangelists, and prophets ;* 
for true apostles, evangelists, and prophets preach God's 
Word, not against God's Word. 

Now, if the apostles, evangelists, and prophets have 
ceased, others must have arisen in their stead, and must 
continue to arise until the end of the world ; for the Church 
shall not cease until the end of the world, and therefore 
apostles, evangelists, prophets must continue, by whatever 
names they may be called who are occupied with God's Word 
and work. The pope and his followers, who persecute God's 
Word and yet admit that it is true, must be very bad apos- 
tles, evangelists, and prophets, like the devil and his angels. 
But how I do come back to the pope's shameful, filthy peo- 
ple ! Let them go again, and tell them not to come back ! 

It was said above about the other four points of the great, 
divine, holy possession 2 whereby the holy Chuch is made 
holy, that you ought not to be concerned about who they are 
from whom it is received. So here, too, you ought not to 
ask who he is that gives it to you, or who has the official 
position. It is all given, not to him who has the office, but 
to him who, through his office, is to give it, except, of course, 
that he can get it with you, if he will. If he is in office and 
is tolerated by the assembly, let that be enough for you ; his 
person makes God's Word and sacraments neither worse 
nor better for you. For what he says or does Is not his 
own, but it is Christ, his Lord, and the Holy Ghost who 
speak and act through him, in so far as he stays within the 
right way of teaching and acting, though the Church cannot 
and ought not endure open vices;* but as for yourself, be 

1 i.e., They are no more apostles, etc., than they are the Church. 
"Heiltum, Cf. abonre, p. 270, note 2. 
a e. In its ministers. 

278 On the Councils and the Churches 

content and let it go ; you alone cannot be the whole group, 
or the Christian, holy people. 

But you must not consider 1 the pope, who forbids any 
Celibacy married man to be called to this office, but declares, with 
Nestorian logic, that they must all be pure virgins. That 
is as much as to say that all the clergy must be pure, but 
that they themselves may be impure. But look at that ! You 
are coming at me again with the pope, and I did not want 
you any more ! Ah, well ; unwelcome guest though you are, 
I will give you a Lutheran reception. 

The pope condemns the marriage of the bishops or pas- 
tors ; that is plain enough. Not satisfied with that, he con- 
demns bigamy far more strongly, and, to speak out clearly, 
he distinguishes four kinds of bigamists, if not five. I will 
call a bigamist one who has two wives, one who marries 
twice, or takes another's widow. The first kind of bigamist 
is one who marries two maids in succession ; the second 
kind, one who takes a widow to wife; the third kind, one 
who takes a bride whose deceased husband has left her a 
virgin. The fourth kind of bigamist gets the name shame- 
fully; if he marries a virgin and afterwards finds that she 
was not pure, not a virgin; in the pope's eyes he must be a 
bigamist, and a far worse one than he who took another's 
bride who was a virgin. All these stink and have an evil 
smell in the Canon Law. 9 They dare not preach, baptize, 
administer the sacraments or hold any office in the Church, 
even though they were holier than St. John and their wives 
holier than the Mother of God. So marvellously holy is the 
pope in his decrees ! 

If a man have ravished a hundred virgins, violated a hun- 
dred widows, and still have a hundred harlots behind his 
hack, he may become bishop or pope, and even though he 
were to continue this kind of doings, he would, nevertheless, 
be tolerated in these offices ; but if he gets a bride who is a 
virgin, or a pretended virgin, he cannot be God's servant. 

*This whole section repeats the ideas of a sermon preacfoed by Luther. 
March 2, 1539. Cf. Weimar Ed. XLVII, 676. ' 

J The Weimar Ed. gives the following references: Decret. Grat., 
diat. 26, cap. 1-3; diet. 34, cap. 9-18; Deere?, Greg. lib. I* 
tit, 21. 

On the Councils and the Churches 279 

It makes no difference that he is a true Christian, learned, 
pious, useful; he is a bigamist, and must get out of his 
office and never come back to it again. What think you? 
Is that not a higher holiness than that of Christ Himself, 
with the Holy Ghost and His Church? Christ does not 
spurn men with one wife or two wives and women with one 
husband or two, 1 if they believe in Him. He lets them re- 
main members of His holy Christian people ; uses them, also, 
in those things for which they are, or can be, useful. The 
Holy Scriptures give the name of bigamist to one who, like Gen. 
Lamech, has two wives living at the same time ; but the pope * :1 9 
is more learned, and gives the name of bigamist to one who 
has two wives in succession, and so with the women. He is 
far more learned than God Himself. 

Finer still, the pope himself admits that the marriage o 
a bigamist 3 is a true marriage and is no sin against God, 
world, or Church, and that such a marriage is a sacrament 
of the Church; and yet the man must be rejected from office- 
holding in the Church, even though he belongs to the third 
or fourth class 8 and ought rather be called a man with one 
wife, or the husband of a virgin. Why so? Ei, the fault 
lies here ! Such a marriage cannot be a sacrament or figure 
of Christ and the Church; for Christ has only one bride, 
the Church, and the Church only one husband, Christ, and 
both remain virgin. On this point there is so much sheer 
nonsense talked that no one can tell it all, and the canonists 
ought really be called lawyers for asses. 

In the first place, if marriage is to be a sacrament 4 of 
Christ and the Church, then no marriage can be a sacrament Marriage 
unless both bridegroom and bride remain virgin ; for Christ 
and the Church remain virgin. Whence, then, shall we get 
children and heirs? What will become of the estate of 
marriage that God has instituted? In a word, there will be 
no marriages but that, of Mary and Joseph and others like it; 

a This Is not intended by Luther as a defense of bigamy. He only wants 
to show the absurdity and the wrong of the meaning attached to "bigamy" 
by the Canon Law, the "successive'* and "interpretative** bigamy, which he has 
described in the preceding paragraph. 

'i.e., A second marriage. 

8 Of those mentioned above. 

*Or "type"; see above. 

280 On the Councils and the Churches 

none of the rest of the marriages can be a sacrament; per- 
haps they may even be harlotry. 

In the second place, who has ever taught this or appointed 
E . it, that we must keep it? "St. Paul," say they, "says in 
5:32 Ephesians iv, that man and wife are a great sacrament/' 
Yes, say I, "in Christ and the Church." Dear fellow, can 
you get it out of these words of Paul that marriage is the 
kind of a sacrament that they speak of? He says, "Man 
and wife are one body; this is a great sacrament/' 1 Then 
he interprets this himself: "I speak of Christ and the 
Church, not of man and wife." They say that he is speaking 
of man and wife. Paul will have Christ and the Church tcf 
be a great sacrament, or "mystery" ; they say that man and 
wife are a great sacrament. Why, then, do they hold it for 
almost the least of the sacraments, nay, for impurity and 
sin, in which one cannot serve God? Moreover, can you find 
it in St. Paul's words that men and women who are married 
a second time are not man and wife, or one flesh? If they 
are one flesh, why are they not also a sacrament of Christ in 
the Church ? St. Paul speaks in general, of all married men 
and women who become one flesh, whether they have never 
been married before or are widowed, and calls them a sac- 
rament, as you understand the word "sacrament." Whence, 
then, are you so clever as to make a difference in marriage 
and take only the single marriage as a sacrament of Christ 
and the Church, the marriage, namely, in which a man 
marries a virgin, and exclude all other marriages? Who 
has commissioned you thus to torture and force St. Paul's 
words ? 

Besides, you do not hold even such a marriage as a sac- 
rament. For bridegrooms do not let their brides remain 
virgins, and they do not take husbands in order that they 
may stay virgins, which they could do much better without 
husbands ; but they desire and ought to bear children ; God 
has made them for that. Where now is the sacrament of 
Christ and the Church, both of whom remained virgin ? Is 

*This is the Vulgatef text The English versions and Luther himself (sec 
below) reader the Greek correctly, "This is a great mystery." 

On the Councils and the Churches 281 

it a fine argument a f i g u r a ad historiam, vel e 
contra, ab historia ad f-igurara? 1 Where did 
you learn such logic ? Christ and the Church are married, 
but remain virgin in the body; therefore man and wife shall 
remain virgin in the body also. Again : Christ is married 
only to a virgin, therefore a Christian or priest shall be mar- 
ried only to a virgin, otherwise there is no sacrament. Why, 
then, do you yield the point and say that the marriage of a 
widow is a sacrament, because it is a marriage, and yet is not 
a sacrament, because the wife was not a virgin? Are you 
not mad and foolish, and gross Nestorians, not knowing 
when you say yes or no, saying one thing in the premise and 
another in the conclusion ? Away with such asses and fools I 

Another error has come out of this one (unless indeed, 
this one has come out of the other). They have called the 
bishops and popes bridegrooms of the Church. 3 They cite 
for this the word of St. Paul, "A bishop shall be the husband I Tim. 
of one wife/' that is, the bishop of one church, as Christ is 3:2 
the bridegroom of one Church ; therefore they shall not be 
bigamists. Verily, popes and bishops are fine fellows to be 
bridegrooms of the Church, nay, of brothel-keepers and 
devil's daughters in hell ! True bishops are servants of this 
bride and she is lady and mistress over them. St. Paul calls 
himself d i a c o n u s , "a servant of the Church/' and will I Cor. 
not be bridegroom or lord of this bride, but the true bride- 3:5 
groom of this bride is called Jesus Christ, Son of God. St. 
John says not, "I am the bridegroom," but, "I am the friend 
of the bridegroom and rejoice to hear his speech." "For 
he that hath the bride/' saith he, "is the bridegroom." His John 
speech one should hear with joy, and thereafter think of 3:29 
himself as a servant. 

How finely they themselves observe even this tomfoolery ! 
A bishop has three bishoprics f yet he must be called "hus- 
band of one wife." Even though he has only one bishopric, 
he still has a hundred, two hundred, five hundred, or more 
parishes, or churches ; yet he is bridegroom of one Church. 

* w j l rom figure to fact, ocr conversely, from fact to figure." 
*In the Caacm Law, Decret. Grat., dist. 26, cap. 2. 
A possible allusion to Albrecht of Mainz. 

282 On the Councils and the Churches 

The pope would be bridegroom of all churches, large and 
small; yet he is called husband of one Church. These men 
are not dig ami, "bigamists/' though they have all these 
brides at one time ; but a man who marries a virgin who has 
been betrothed to another is a digamus. Such gross 
and monstrous folly will God inflict upon us, if we despise 
His Word and want to improve on His commands. 

Nay, they have an Acutius in their Decretum 1 
in which St. Augustine holds, against St. Jerome, that he 
who had a wife before he was baptized and has one after- 
wards is a bigamist. Dear jack-asses, does it follow from 
this that St. Augustine, even though he holds such a man a 
bigamist (which the Scriptures do not!), will have him con- 
demned, as you do, so that he may not serve God? And 
even though this should follow, have you not to the contrary, 
in d i s t . 9, a strong noli m e i s ? a How is it that you 
hold so fast to the Acutius, though it is contrary to 
Scripture, and pass over so lightly the Noli m e i s and 
other chapters? This is your idea: you would be lords of 
the Church ; what you say shall be right ; marriage shall be 
right and a sacrament, if you will it so; marriage shall be 
an impurity, that is, a defiled sacrament that cannot serve 
God, if you will it so ; marriage shall bear children and the 
wife yet remain a virgin or it is no sacrament of Christ and 
the Church, if you will it so; bigamists are without guilt 
and have a true marriage and sacrament, if you will it so; 
or they are condemned and cannot do God service and have 
no sacrament of Christ and the Church, if you will it so. 
See how the devil, who teaches you this nonsense, makes you 
reel around and wobble back and forth. 

How comes it that I must hold Augustine's saying an 
article of faith, 4 if he himself will not have his sayings held 
as articles of faith and will not suffer the sayings of his 
predecessors as articles of faith? Suppose that the dear 
fathers did hold and teach that digamus was 'the name 

1 i.c., In the Canon Law. Acutius is the first word of the quotation 
from Augustine in Decret. Grat.dist. 26, cap. 2; the Quotation from 
Jerome, ibid, cap. 1. 

a See above, p. 148, where Luther quotes the passage. 

* In the passage Noli meis, referred to above. 

On the Councils and the Churches 283 

for the sort of man we have been speaking of; what has 
that to do with us ? We need not so hold and teach for that 
reason. We must not found our salvation on the words and 
works of men, or otir houses on hay and straw. But the 
canonists are such gross fools, with their idols at Rome, that 
they take the words and deeds of the dear fathers and, 
against their will and without their consent, make them 
articles of faith. It should be proved by Scripture that such 
men are to be called bigamists and trigamists, and then it 
would be right that they should not be servants of the church 
according to St. Paul's teaching, "A bishop shall be the 
husband of one wife/' But it has happened often enough 
that the fathers have sewed old patches on new cloth. Here 
is a case. It is right that no d i g a m u s shall be a servant 
of the Church, that is the new cloth ; but that this or that 
man is a digamus, that is an old rag o their own opin- 
ion, because the Scriptures do not say it. In the Scriptures, 
a bigamist is one who has two wives living at the same time, 
and St. Paul was thought to have had a wife 1 (Philippians 
iv) and that she had died. Accordingly, he, too, must have 
been a bigamist and have been compelled to give up his office 
of apostle ; for in I Corinthians vii he counts himself among- 
the widowed, and yet, in I Corinthians ix, he wants to have 
the right, along with Barnabas, to take another wife. Who 
will assure us that the poor fishermen, Peter, Andrew, and 
James, were married to virgins, and not to widows, and had 
not two wives in succession ? 

The blockheads have not the same idea of purity that 
the fathers had, but would lead poor souls astray and en- 
danger them, only in order that their nasty, stinking book 2 
may be right, and that their science may not be able to err 
and may not have erred ; otherwise they would see what is 
considered purity. In other opinions (and what is this but 
a matter of mere opinions?) they can say finely: Non 
tenetur, hoc tene 8 ; why can they not do it here, 

*This conclusion rests on a mistaken interpretation of Phil. 4:3 and I 
Cor. 7:8. 
fl The Canon Law. 
"It is not held; but hold this." 

284 On the Councils and the Churches 

especially since in causis decidendis 1 they have to 
throw away not one father only, but all of them together, 
as their idol sputters and bellows? But they want to rule 
the Church, not with assured wisdom, but with arbitrary 
opinions, while on the other hand, they lead all the souls in 
the world astray and throw them into uncertainty, as they 
have done before. But just as they reject all the fathers and 
theologians from their canons, so we reject them from the 
Church and the Scriptures. They shall neither teach us 
Scripture nor rule in the Church, but shall look after their 
canons and their quarrels over pretends; that is their holi- 
ness. They have put us poor theologians and all the fathers 
out of their books; and we thank them for it. Now they 
want to put us out of the Church and the Scriptures, and 
they cannot get in themselves. That is too much! It rips 
the bag wide open ! Moreover we shall not put up with it ! 
I hold, in truth, that according to their wisdom no man 
would be able to take a maid to wife and, after her death, 
become a priest among them; for who can give him any 
guarantee that he is getting a maid ? "The toad runs past 
the door/' 3 as they say. Now if he find her not a maid, a 
chance that he has to take, then he is a stinking bigamist, 
without any fault of his own. If he would be certain that 
he can become a priest, he must take no maid to wife ; for 
who will assure him of it? He may, however, ravish maids, 
widows, and wives, have many mistresses, and practice all 
kinds of silent sins ; and yet be worthy of the priestly state. 
The sum of it all is that pope, devil, and his church hate 
Dan. the estate of matrimony, as Daniel says ; therefore he wants 
17:37 to bring it into such disgrace that a married ,man cannot fill 
a priest's office. That is as much as to say that marriage is 
harlotry, sin, impure, and rejected by God; and although 
they say, at the same time, that it is holy and a sacrament, 
that is a lie of their false hearts, for if they seriously con- 
sidered it holy, and a sacrament, they would not forbid the 
priests to marry. Because they do forbid them, they must 
consider it unclean, and a sin, as they plainly say, M u n d a - 

*"In the cases to be decided." 

a A proverb, equivalent to, "Mistakes are easy." 

On the Councils and the Churches 285 

mini qui f ertis 1 ; or else they must be gross Nestor- 
ians and Eutychians, who affirm a premise and deny the 

Let this suffice this time for the papal ass with his asinine 
jurists. We return to our own people. 

Pay no heed, as I have said, to the papists concerning 
who it is that occupies Church offices, for the asses do not 
understand St. Paul and do not know what St. Paul's lan- 
guage calls a sacrament. "Sacrament," he says, "is Christ 
and His Church," that is, Christ and His Church are one 5:32 
body, as are man and wife; but this is a great mystery and 
must he laid hold upon by faith ; it is not visible or tangible, 
therefore it is a sacrament, i.e., a secret thing, myster- 
i u m , invisible, hidden. Since, however, not those only who 
have entered matrimony as virgins, but also those who marry 
out of widowhood, are one body, therefore every marriage is 
a figure or symbol of this great sacrament, or mystery, in 
Christ and the Church. St, Paul speaks neither of virgins 
nor widows ; he speaks of marriage, in which man and wife 
are one body. Wherever, then, you find these offices and 
officers, there be sure that the holy, Christian people must be. 
The Church cannot be without bishops, pastors, preachers, 
priests; on the other hand, they cannot be without the 
Church ; both must be together. 

Sixth. The holy, Christian people is known by prayer 
and public thanksgiving and praise to God. Where you see 
and hear that the Lord's Prayer is prayed and the use of it is 
taught; where Psalms, or spiritual songs, are sung, in ac- 
cordance with the Word of God and the right faith; when 
the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Catechism are 
openly used; there be sure that a holy Christian people is;, 
for prayer, too, is one of the precious holy possessions, 5 * 
whereby everything is made holy, as St, Paul says. Thus I Tim. 
the Psalms also are nothing but prayers, in which praise, 4:S 
thanks and honor are rendered to God, and the Creed and 
Ten Commandments, and God's Word, too, are all holy 
possessions, 8 whereby the Holy Ghost makes holy the holy 

a "Th.ou must be clean, who bearest (the vessels of the Lord)". 
a D e r heiltumb eins. See above, p. 270 note 2. 
Eitel heilthum. 

286 On the Councils and the Churches 

people of Christ. We speak, however, of prayers and songs 
that can be understood, from which it is possible to learn and 
whereby men may amend their lives ; for the noises made by 
monks and nuns and priests are not prayers or praises to 
God. They do not understand it and learn nothing from it ; 
they do it like hard labor, 1 for the belly's sake, and seek 
thereby no improvement of life, no progress in holiness, no 
doing of God's will. 

7. sf- Seventh. The holy, Christian Church is outwardly 
known by the holy possession 2 of the Holy Cross. It must 
endure all hardship and persecution, all kinds of temptation 
and evil (as the Lord's Prayer says) from devil, world, and 
flesh; it must be inwardly sad, timid, terrified; outwardly 
poor, despised, sick, weak; thus it becomes like its head, 
Christ. 3 The reason must be only this, that it holds fast 
to Christ and God's Word and thus suffers for Christ's sake, 
according to Matthew v, "Blessed are they that endure per- 
5;10 secution for my sake." They must be righteous, quiet, obe- 
dient, ready to serve their rulers and everyone else with body 
and wealth, doing no one any harm. But no people on earth 
must endure such bitter hatred. They must be worse than 
Jews, heathen, Turks ; they must be called heretics, knaves, 
devils, accursed, and the worst people in the world, to the 
point where they are "doing God service" who hang them, 
drown them, slay them, torture them, hunt them down, 
plague them to death, and where no one has pity on them, 
but gives them myrrh and gall to drink, when they thirst, 
not because they are adulterers, murderers, thieves or scoun- 
drels, but because they will to have Christ alone, and no other 
God. Where you see or hear this, there know that the holy 
Christian Church is, as He says, in Matthew v, "Blessed are 

^n 12 ye ' w ^ en men curse y u an< * Deject your name as an evil, 

' wicked thing for my sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your 

reward in heaven is great." With this holy possession* the 

Holy Ghost m^kes this people, not only holy, but blessed. 

And be not concerned with the holy things of the papists, 

1 E3elserbeit. 

a Heilthum. See above, p. 270, note 2. 

*Heilthum. See above, p. 270, note 2. 

On the Councils and the Churches 287 

with dead saints and wood of the Holy Cross ; for they are 

as often bones from the slaughter-house as bones of saints 

and as often wood from some gallows as wood of the Holy 

Cross. It is all a cheat, by which the pope tricks people 

out of their money and leads them away from Christ, and 

even though they were genuine relics, they would make no 

one holy. But when you are condemned for Christ's sake, 

cursed, accused, slandered, plagued, that makes you holy, 

for it slays the old Adam, and makes him learn patience, 

humility, gentleness, teaching him to praise and thank God 

and to be joyful in suffering. That is what it means to be 

made holy by the Holy Ghost and renewed to the new life 

in Christ and thus we learn to believe God, trust Him, hope 

in Him, love Him ; as Romans v says, Tribulatio Rom - S:4 

s p e m / etc. 

These are the true seven chief parts of the high and holy 
possession 3 whereby the Holy Ghost works in us a daily 
sanctification and vivification in Christ according to the 
First Table of Moses. 3 By their help we fulfil it, though 
not so fully as Christ has done; but we constantly seek to 
do so, under redemption, or forgiveness of sin, until at last 
we become quite holy and need no more forgiveness. To 
that end it is all directed. I would even call these seven 
things the seven sacraments, but this word, "sacrament," has 
been misused by the papists and is used in another sense in 
Scripture, therefore I let them remain simply seven chief 
means of Christian sanctification, or seven holy possessions.* 

Beside these seven chief things, there are other outward other 
signs whereby the holy Christian Church is known, viz., those ^ the 
whereby the Holy Ghost makes us holy according to the church 
Second Table of Moses, 8 as when he helps us to honor 
father and mother from the heart, and helps them to raise 
their children in a Christian way and to lead honorable 
lives; when we serve our princes and lords faithfully and 
obediently and are subject to them, and they, in turn, love 

* "Tribulation worketh hope.** 
a Heilthum. 

8 i.e,, A life that fulfils the commandments of the first table, which refer to 
duty owed to God. 
*Heil th umb. 

The commandments which declare the duties owed to fellowmcn. 

Vol 5.-19 

288 On the Councils and the Churches 

their subjects and protect and guard them; when we are 
angry with no one, bear no wrath, hatred, envy, or venge- 
fulness toward our neighbor, but gladly forgive him, gladly 
lend to him, help and counsel him; when we are not un- 
chaste, immoderate in drinking, proud, haughty, boastful, 
but pure, self-controlled, sober, kindly, gentle, and humble; 
do not steal, rob, take usury, indulge in greed, cheat, but are 
mild, kind, satisfied, generous ; are not false, lying and per- 
juring, but truthful, reliable, and whatever else is taught in 
these commandments, all of which St. Paul teaches abun- 
dantly in more than one place. For we need the Decalog not 
only because it tells us in legal fashion what we are bound 
to do, but also in order that we may see in it how far the 
Holy Ghost has brought us in His sanctifying work, and 
how much we still fall short, so that we may not become 
careless and think that we have now done all that is required. 
Thus we are constantly to grow in sanctification and ever to 
become more and more "a new creature" in Christ The 
;word is Crescite and Abundetis magis.* 

These marks cannot, however, be considered to be as cer- 
tain as the others, 3 because the heathen have practiced 
these works and sometimes appear holier than the Christians. 
Nevertheless their actions do not come so purely and simply 
from the heart for God's sake, but they seek some other end 
thereby, since they have no real faith and no true knowledge 
of God. But the Holy Ghost is here, 8 and He sanctifies 
men's hearts, and brings these fruits out of good, fine hearts, 

13:23 as Christ says in the parable, in Matthew xiii ; and yet be- 
cause the First Table is higher and must be a greater holy 

8:15 possession,* I have tried to gather all this up in the Second 
Table; otherwise I should have divided this, too, into seven 
holy possessions, or main points, according to the seven Com- 
mandments. 5 

We now know for certain what, where, and who the holy 

1 "Increase" (II Pet. 3:18) and "Abound more and more" (I Thess. 4:1). 

a .e., Those which Luther has called **the seven holy possessions" of the 

*i.e., Among the Christians, as He is not among the heathen, 

*Heilthum . 

*In Luther's division, the First Table contained three Commandments; the 
Second Table seven 


On the Councils and the Churches 289 

Christian Church is, viz,, the holy Christian people of God, 
and these marks cannot fail, of that we are sure. All else 
beside them may fail, and does assuredly fail, as we shall 
hear In part. From out of this people men should be taken 
to form a council and that might be a council which was ruled 
by the Holy Ghost. Thus Lyra, 1 too, says that the Church 
is not to be counted by the high, or spiritual, classes in it, but 
by the people who truly believe. It is a wonder to me that 
he was not burned for this statement, since he will not allow 
that popes, cardinals, bishops and prelates are the Church, 
and this results in horrible heresy which the holy Roman 
Church cannot endure and which touches it far too closely. 
Of this more in another place! 

Now when the devil saw God building this holy Christian 
Church, he took no holiday, but built his own chapel along- 
side it, greater than God's temple, and this is how he did it. of ** 
He saw that God took outward things, baptism, Word, 
Sacrament, keys, and used them to make His church holy; 
and because he is always aping God and trying to imitate 
God and improve on Him in everything, he, too, took out- 
ward things that were to become means to holiness (acting 
just as he does with the rain-makers, conjurers, drivers-out 
of devils, etc.) and he even has the Lord's Prayer prayed 
over them and the Gospels read over them. Thus through 
the popes and the papists he has caused the consecration, or 
hallowing, of water, salt, herbs, candles, bells, images, 
agnusdei, 3 pallia, 3 chasubles, tonsures, fingers, hands, 
who will count all these things? At last he made the 
monks' cowls so holy that people died in them and were 
buried in them, as though by so doing they were saved. 4 

It would have been a fine thing, to be sure, if God's Word, 
or a blessing, or a prayer, had been said over these created 
things, as children say them over their food, or over them- 
selves, when they go to bed or arise. Of this St. Paul says 

* Nicholas of Lyra (d. 1340), one of the most famous of the mediaeval com- 
mentators on the Bible. Luther refers to him frequently and the present 
passage is quoted by Melanchthon in the Ap ol ogy, Ch. IV. (MUELLER p. 156, 
22; JACOBS, Bookof Concord, p. 166). 

a Amulets of wax, stamped with the image of the Lamb of God and worn 
as charms. 

* The insignia of the archbishop's office. See VoL I, p. 89, n. 3. 

* See above, p. 248f . 

290 On the Councils and the Churches 

i Tim. "Every creature is good and is sanctified by the Word and 
prayer," for from such a practice "the creature" gets no new 
power, but is confirmed and strengthened in its former 
power. But the devil is after something else! He wants 
"the creature" to get new power and might from his mum- 
tniery. By means of God's Word, water becomes baptism, 
that is, a bath unto everlasting life, which washes away sins 
and saves men, though this is not the natural power of water ; 
bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ ; by the 
laying-on of hands, sins are forgiven according to God's in- 
stitution. In just the same way the devil would have his 
jugglery and mummery endued with power and do something 
supernatural. Holy water is to blot out sin, drive out 
devils, keep off evil spirits, and protect women in child-bed, 
as the pope teaches in the canon Aquam s a 1 e , d e pe 1 ; 
consecrated salt is to have the same effect. An agnus dei 
consecrated by the pope is to do more than God Himself 
can do, as this is described in verses that I shall some day 
publish with notes. Bells are to drive away the devils in 
thunder-storms; St. Anthony's knives stab the devil; the 
blessing of herbs drives away poisonous worms; certain 
blessings heal sick cows, keep off milk-thieves, 3 quench fires ; 
certain writings give security, in war and at other times, 
against iron, fire, water, wild beasts, etc.; mionastic vows, 
masses, and the like confer a salvation that is beyond the 
ordinary. Who can tell it all? There is no need so small 
that the devil has not instituted a sacrament, or holy posses- 
sion, 3 for it, whereby one may find aid and counsel against 
It. Besides, he has also had prophets, seers, and wise men, 
who have been able to reveal hidden things and restore stolen 

Oh, he, far more than God, is fitted out with sacraments, 
prophets, apostles, evangelists; his chapels are far larger 
than God's Church; and he has far more people in his kind 
of holiness than God has in His. Moreover, people believe 

1 The canon referred to is found in Deere t. Grat. Ill, d i s t . 3, c. 20. 
The d^e p e is either a slip of the pen or a misprint for de co (d e conse- 
cration e) , the title of the chapter containing this canon. 

a Le., Witches who make cows go dry. 

HeiIthum; see above., p. 270, note 2, 

On the Councils and the Churches 291 

more easily and more gladly in his promises, his sacraments, 
his prophets, than in Christ's. He is the great god of the 
world; Christ calls him "Prince of the world/' and Paul John 
"God of this world." With this apery he draws people away 14:3 
from faith in Christ and causes Christ's Word and sacra- Il ^* 
ments to be despised. He does this quite without their 
knowledge, because it is easier to perceive such things as the 
blotting out of sin, aid in time of need, and the conferring 
of salvation, through the devil's sacrarrients than through 
Christ's sacraments. It is Christ's will to make people holy 
and good in body and soul by His Holy Spirit, and not let 
them stay in unbelief and sin. This is too hard for those 
who do not want to be good or to have their sins forgiven, 
and they can readily dispense with this work of the Holy 
Ghost, after they have learned that they can be saved more 
easily, without this work of the Holy Ghost, by such means 
as holy water, a gnus dei, bulls and breves, masses and 
monks' cowls, and that it is not necessary to seek or to 
revere anything else. 

Not only so, but the devil has so fitted himself out with 
these things that he has wanted to use them for the abolition 
of God's Word and sacraments. He has thought thus : "If 
anyone shall arise who shall attack my church, sacraments, 
and bishops, saying that external things do not save men, 
then God's Word and sacraments shall be destroyed along 
with them. For these, too, are outward signs, and His bish- 
ops and His Church are also men. If mine are to be of no 
account, His must be of far less account. First of all, because 
my church, bishops, and sacraments work instanter and help 
men in this present life, so that they cannot help seeing it, 
for I am there and help men quickly to what they desire; but 
Christ's sacraments work for a future and invisible spiritual 
state, so that His Church and bishops can scarcely be per- 
ceived 1 a very little, afar off, and the Holy Ghost acts as 
though He were not there, lets people suffer all misfortune 
and makes them appear, in the eyes of my church, as heretics. 
Meanwhile, not only is my church so close that a man can 
actually grasp it, but my works follow quickly; and so 
1 IrUther says "smelled." 

292 On the Councils and the Churches 

everyone thinks that it is the true Church of God. This is 
the advantage that I have/' 

That is how things have gone. When we began to teach, 
by the Gospel, that these outward things could not save men, 
because they were mere natural, created things and the devil 
often used them as spells, then people, even great and 
learned people came to the conclusion that baptism because 
it was eternal water, the Word because it was outward, 
human speech, the Scriptures because they were outward 
letters, made with ink, bread and wine because baked by 
the baker, that all these things were nothing at all, because 
they were external, perishable things. Thus they devised the 
slogan, "Spirit! Spirit! The Spirit must do it! The let- 
ter killeth." Thus Miinzer 1 called us Wittenberg theolog- 
ians men learned in the Scriptures arid himself the man 
taught of the Spirit 3 ; and many others followed his example. 
There you see how the devil had armed himself and built up 
his barricades! If his external doctrine and sacraments 
(which bring quick, visible, mighty aid) were attacked, then 
Christ's external sacraments and words (which are slow 
with their aid, or bring aid that is invisible and weak) must 
go to far worse destruction along with them. 

Therefore the Ecclesia, the holy Christian people, has 
mere outward words, sacraments, and offices, such as God's 
imitator, Satan, has and has in far greater number; but it 
has these things commanded, instituted, and ordained by 
God, so that He Himself, and not any angel, will work 
through them with the Holy Ghost. They are called the 
Word, baptism, Sacrament, and forgiving-office not of an- 
gels, or of men, or of creatures, but of God Himself ; only 
it is His will to act for the comfort and good of us poor, 
weak, feeble men through them, and not through His un- 
veiled, evident, bright majesty. For who could bear that 
for an instant in this sinful, poor flesh, as Moses says, 
33:20 Non videbit me homo et vivet? 8 Thus the Jews 
could not endure even the shoes of His feet on Mount Sinai, 

*The reference is to his Schutzrede and antwort (1524). 
a Uns die S ch rif f t gel ert en und sich den Geistgelef- 

a "No man shall see me and live." 

On the Councils and the Churches 293 

that is, in the thunder and the clouds, and how would they 
have endured, with such feeble eyes, the sun of His divine 
majesty and the clear light of His countenance? But He 
wills to do these things by tolerable, sober, pleasant means, 
which could not be better chosen by ourselves ; as, for ex- 
ample, by a good, kindly man, who talks with us, preaches to 
us, lays his hands upon us, forgives our sins, baptizes us, 
gives us bread and wine to eat and drink. Who can be ter- 
rified at such tender ways of acting and not rather rejoice in 
them with all his heart? 

Well, then, that is just what is done for us feeble men, 
and in it we see how God treats us like dear children, and is 
not willing though He has the right, to deal with us in 
majesty; and yet, beneath it all, He is using His majestic 
divine works, might and power, forgiving sin, cleansing from 
sin, taking away death, bestowing grace and everlasting life. 
These things are not found in the devil's sacraments and 
church. There no one can say, <f God commanded it, 
ordered it, instituted it, founded it, and He will Himself be 
there and do everything." On the contrary, one must then 
say, "God; did not command it, but forbade it; men have 
invented it, or rather the imitator of God 1 has invented it 
and leads the people astray with it." He produces no effects 
that are not temporal, or if they are spiritual, they are sheer 
deception. He cannot forgive men's sins eternally and save 
them, as he lyingly says, by means of holy water, masses, 
and the monastic life; though, to be sure, he can restore to 
a cow the milk that he has first stolen from her by means of 
his prophetesses and priestesses, 3 whom Christians call 
"devil's harlots," and who, when they are discovered, are 
burned to death with fire, as is right, not for milk-stealing, 
but for blasphemy, because they strengthen the devil, with 
his sacraments and churches, against Christ. 

In a word, if God were to bid you pick up a straw or pull 
out a feather* with the coonmiand, order, and promise that 
thereby you should have forgiveness of all your sins, grace, 
and everlasting life, ought you not accept that, and love and 
praise it, with all joy and thankfulness, and consider that 

*Der Gottes Affe, i.e., Satan. 

'Witches. On "milk-stealing" cf. above, p. 290. 

294 On the Councils and the Churches 

straw and feather as a higher and holier possession than 
heaven and earth, and love it more than them? For how- 
ever small the straw or feather is, you get by it such a 
possession as neither heaven nor earth, nay, not all the 
angels, can give you. Why are we such shameful folk 
that we do not consider the water of baptism, the bread and 
wine, that is, Christ's body and blood, the spoken Word, 
and the laying-on of a man's hands for the forgiveness of 
sins to be as holy a possession 1 as we would think such a 
straw or feather to be? And yet, in these things, as we see 
and hear, God Himself wills to work and they are to be His 
water, word, hand, bread, and wine, whereby it is His will to 
make us holy and give us life in Christ, who has obtained 
these things for us and for this work has given us, from the 
Father, the Holy Ghost. 

On the other hand, even though you were to go to Com- 
postella* to St. James or let yourself be killed by the severe 
life of the Carthusians, Franciscans, or Dominicans in order 
to be saved, and God had not bidden this or instituted it; 
what good would it do you? He knows nothing about 
these things, but you and the devil have thought them up, 
like the special sacraments and the classes of priests. Even 
though you were able to carry heaven and earth on your 
shoulders in order to be saved, it would be labor lost, and 
he who picked up the straw (if it were commanded) would 
do more than you, though you could carry ten worlds. Why 
so ? It is God's will that we shall obey His Word, use His 
sacraments, honor His Church; then He will act graciously 
and tenderly enough, even more graciously and tenderly than 
we could desire; for it is said, "I am thy God; thou shalt 

20:21 have no other gods"; and it is said again, "Him shalt thou 
Matt hear, and no other." 

17:5 That is enough to say about the Church. Nothing more 
can be said about it, except that each section could be devel- 
oped further. The rest must deal with another subject, 8 of 
which we shall also speak. 

1 Sohoch Heilthttm. 

3 The shrine of St. James at Compostella, in Spain: a famous place of 
[pilgrimage, Cf. Vol. I, p. 191, n. 1. 
8 M us cine andere Meinung haben . 

On the Councils and the Churches 295 

Beside these external marks and holy possessions 1 the Customs 
Church has still other external customs. It is not made holy and 
by them or through them, either in body or soul; they are*"** 
not instituted or commanded by God; and yet, as has been 
said o them at length above, they are of great necessity 
and usefulness, and are fine and proper. Such customs are 
the keeping of certain holidays and of certain hours, before 
or after noon, as times for preaching and prayer, and the- 
use of church buildings, or houses, altars, pulpits, fonts, 
lights, candles, bells, vestments and the like. These things 
have no other effect and do nothing else than lies in their 
nature, just as foods do nothing more because of the b e n e- 
dici te and the gratias 3 of the children; for the godless 
and the rude folk, who say nobenediciteorgratias, 
that is, who neither pray to God nor thank Him, get as fat 
and strong from their eating and drinking as do Christians. 
Christians can become and remain holy without these things, 
if the preaching is done on the street, without a pulpit, if 
sins are forgiven, 3 if the Sacrament is administered without 
an altar, baptism without a font; and indeed it is of daily 
occurrence that, because of peculiar circumstances, sermons 
are preached and baptism and the Sacrament administered 
in homes. But for the sake of the children and the simple 
f oik, it is a fine thing and promotes good order to have a 
definite time, place, and hour for these things, so that people 
can adapt themselves and meet together, as St. Paul says, in 
I Corinthians xiv, "Let all be done in fine order." This i Cor. 
order no one ought, and no Christian does, despise without 14: 40 
cause, out of mere pride, and only for the sake of creating 
disorder ; but for the sake of the multitude everyone ought 
to join in observing it, or at least not disturb or hinder it. 
That would be to act against love and kindness. 

Nevertheless, these things ought to remain free. If from 
necessity, or for some other good reason, we cannot preach 
at six or seven or twelve or one o'clock, on Sunday or Mon- 
day, in the choir or at St. Peter's, then let the preaching be 

*He ilthum. 
a i 

a i.e., The grace which the children say at table. 
8 i.e., The absolution pronounced. 

296 On the Councils and the Churches 

done at other hours, on other days, in other places, so long 
as the common people are not disturbed by such a change, 
but are carried along in it. For these things are entirely ex- 
ternal and, so far as times and places and persons are con- 
cerned, they can be regulated altogether by reason and are 
completely subject to it. God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost 
ask no questions about these things, any more than they ask 
about what or where we eat, drink, dress, live, marry, go, or 
stay; except as has been said, that no one ought, without 
good reason, to take these matters into his own hands and 
disturb or hinder the common people. At a wedding or other 
social gathering no one ought to annoy the bride or the rest 
of the guests by peculiar or disturbing conduct, but rather 
behave as the rest do, and sit and walk and stand and dance 
and eat and drink with them. It is not possible to place a 
special table, kitchen, cellar, and servant at every individual's 
disposal. If one needs anything, let him get up from the 
table and leave the others to sit there in peace. So in these 
matters, too, everything should be done peacefully and in 
order and yet it should all be free and subject to change, if 
times and persons or other circumstances demand ; then the 
crowd follows along harmoniously. For, as has been said, 
these things make no Christian either more holy or more 

To be sure, the pope has scrawled the world full of books 
about these things and has made of them bonds, laws, rights, 
articles of faith, sin, and holiness, and it would be right to 
burn his decrees again in the fire. 1 For this book, which 
has done great harm, could well be spared. It has pushed 
the Holy Scriptures under the bench and severely suppressed 
Christian doctrine; it has brought the jurists also into sub- 
jection with their imperial law; thus it has trodden both 
Church and emperor under foot, and has given us in their 
place the stupid asses of canonists, the will-o'-the-wisps, who 
have ruled the Church by it, a and what is more lamentable, 
have left the best that is in it and taken out the worst, and 
forced that upon the Church. What good there is in it could 

1 Luther had burned copies of the Canon Law along with the bull of excom- 
munication, Pec 10, 1520. 
ft _ a ie n By the Canon Law. 

On the Councils and the Churches 297 

be had much better in Holy Scripture, nay, in St. Augus- 
tine alone, so far as the doctrine o the Church is concerned, 
and in the jurists, so far as temporal government is con- 
cerned. The jurists themselves once had the intention to 
throw this book out of jurisprudence and leave it to the 
theologians, but it would be better to throw it in the fire and 
reduce it to ashes, though there is some good in it ; for how 
could pure evil exist, unless there were some good among 
it?^ But there is so much of the evil that it takes the place 
which the good ought to have, and (as has been said) the 
good is found more richly in the Scriptures, and even in the 
fathers, and the jurists. Unless, of course, one were to 
keep it in the libraries as an evidence of the folly and the 
mistakes of popes and some of the councils and other teach- 
ers ! That is what I keep it for. 

These outward, free things we should regard as the bap- 
tismal shirt or cloth in which a child is wrapped for baptism. 
The child is not baptized or made holy by the shirt or cloth, 
but by the baptism, and yet reason tells us to wrap it in the 
cloth. If the cloth is soiled or torn, we take something else, 
and wash the child without the aid of cloth or shirt ; only we 
must observe moderation and not take too many shirts or 
cloths, so that the child is smothered. Thus in ceremonies 
also there should be moderation, so that they do not became 
a burden- and a task, but remain so light that they are not 
felt, just as at a wedding no one thinks it a burden or a task 
to act and conduct himself like other people. Of the special 
fasts I shall write again when I write about that plague of 
the Germans, gluttony and drunkenness; for this belongs 
properly to temporal government. 

Of the schools 1 I have written much above and elsewhere, 
urging firmness and diligence in caring for them. Although 
they may be regarded as a heathen, external thing, because 
the boys learn in them the languages and arts, nevertheless 
they are highly necessary. If we do not train pupils, we 
shall not long have pastors and preachers, as we are finding 
out. The school must give the Church persons who can be 
made apostles, evangelists, and prophets, that is, preachers, 


298 On the Councils and the Churches 

pastors, rulers, beside the other kinds of people that are 
needed throughout the world, who are to become chancelors, 
councillors, secretaries, and the like, and who help with 
worldly government. Moreover, if the school-master is a 
god-fearing man and teaches the boys to understand, to sing 
and to practice God's Word and the true faith, and holds 
them to Christian discipline, then (as was said above) the 
schools are young and everlasting councils, which do more 
good than many great councils. Therefore the former em- 
perors, kings and princes did well when, with such diligence, 
they built so many schools, high and low, cloisters and en- 
dowed houses, because they wanted to provide the Church 
with a rich and great supply of persons; but their descen- 
dants have shamefully perverted and misused them. There- 
fore princes and lords ought now to do as their predecessors 
did, and turn the possessions of the cloisters over to the 
schools and endow many persons with means to study. Even 
though our descendants abuse them, we have done our part 
in our time. 

In a word, the school mu&t be the next thing to the Church, 
The for it is the place where young pastors and preachers are 
Family trained and out of which they are drawn to put in the places 
* tk 086 w ^ ^ e - Next to the school comes the burgher's 
house, out of which pupils are got. After them come the 
town-hall and the castle, which must protect the burghers, 
so that they produce children for the schools, and the schools, 
so that they train children to be pastors, and then the pastors 
can, in turn, make churches and children of God, whether 
the people be burghers, princes, or emperors. God, however, 
must be over all and nearest of all, to preserve this ring, or 
circle, against the devil, and to do all, in all classes, nay, in 
PS. all creatures. Psalm cxxvii says that there are on earth only 
127:1 two bodily governments, the city and the house. It says, 
"Except the Lord build the house," and again, "Except the 
Lord keep the city." The first government is that of the 
house, out of which come people. The second is the ruling 
of the city, that is, lands, people, princes, and lords, which 
we call worldly government. There everything is given, 
children, property, money, beasts, etc. The house must build 

On the Councils and the Churches 299 

this ; the city must guard, protect, and defend it. Then comes 
the third thing, God's own house and city, that is, the Church, 
which must have people from the house and protection and 
defense from the city. 

These are the three hierarchies ordained by God, and we 
need no more ; indeed we have enough and more than enough 
to do in living aright and resisting the devil in these three, 
Look only at the house and see what is to do there. There 
are parents and house-rulers to obey ; there are children and 
servants to support, train, govern, and care for in a godly 
way. We would have enough to do to keep the law of the 
home, even if there were nothing else to do. Then the city, 
that is, the worldly government, also gives us enough to do, 
if we are, on the one hand, to be faithful in our obedience 
and, on the other, to judge, protect, and further the good of 
our subjects, lands and people. The devil keeps us busy 
enough, and with him God has given us the sweat of our Gen. 
brows and plenty of thorns and thistles, so that in these two 3:18 
kinds of law 1 we have a rich abundance of things to learn, 
to^live, to do, and to endure. Then there is, after these, the 
third kind of law and government. If the Holy Ghost rules, 
Christ calls it a comfortable, sweet, easy burden ; if not, it 
is not only heavy, sour, and terrible, but it is also impossible, Matt 
as Paul calls it in Romans viii, Impossible legis, 3 11:3 

and says in another place, "The letter killeth." j^J 

Now why should we have, over and above these three 3:6 
divine governments, these three divine, natural, temporal 
laws, the blasphemous, pretended law or government of the 
pope? It would be everything, yet it is nothing. On the 
contrary, it leads us astray and tears us away from these 
blessed, divine estates and laws. Instead it puts a mask or 
cowl upon us and makes us the devil's fools and puppets, 
who live in idleness and no longer know these three divine 
hierarchies or laws. Therefore we will endure it no longer, 
but act according to the teaching of Sts. Peter and Paul and 
Augustine, and turn against them the second Psalm, "Let us 
tear their bands asunder and cast away their cords from Ps * 2 ' 2 

1 Le., The law of the home and the law of the State. 
a "That which is impossible to the law." 

300 On the Councils and the Churches 

Gal, 1:8 us." Nay, we will sing with St. Paul, "He that teacheth 
otherwise, even though he were an angel from heaven, let 
him be accursed!" We will say with St. Peter, "Why do ye 
tempt God by the imposing of such a burden?" Thus we 
will again be lords of the pope and tread him under foot, as 

p 8 . Psalm xci says, "Thou shalt tread upon the adder and basi- 
91:13 lisk, and the lion and dragon shalt thou trample tinder foot." 

Gen. This we will do by the power and help of the woman's Seed, 
3:15 Who hath trodden and still treads upon the serpent's head, 
even though we must take the risk that he will bite us in the 
heel. To that blessed Seed of the woman be praise and 
honor, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one true God, 
forever. Amen. 




ABBOT, 227, 246, 247 

Abraham, 20 

Adam's plague, see Original sin 

adiaphora, 187, 250, 251, 257, 295 

advetia, 214 

adviee, see Evangelical counsel 

acquit as, see Justice 

Agnus dei, 289, 290 

agriculturam (Agriculture), one of the two divisions of the work of 

men, 66, 69. See also militiam 
Agriculture and the Turk, 99 
Alexander, Bishop, 176 
Alexander, Emperor, 45 
Allah, 101 . 

Altar, Sacrament of the, see Sacrament of the Altar 
Anabaptists (Donatists), 97, 166, 167, 186 
Anastasius, 214f 
Anchorite, 160^ 

Angelic salutation, see Ave Maria 
Angels, Intercession of, 10 
annates f 83 

Annunciation, Feast of the, 184 
Antichrist, 26, 98, 115, 134 
Antinomians, 233f, 265, 268f 
Antioch, Church at, 208, 211, 212 
antilogiae, 175 

Apology of the Augsburg Confession, 236 
Apostles, The, 150, 151 
Apostolic Canons, The, 166 
Archimandrite, see Abbot 

Arians (Arianism), 97, 165, 177f, 201, 237f, 240 
Aristotle, 13 

Arius, 176f, 199f, 201, 203f, 206f, 215 
Articles of Faith, 178f, 181, 187, 188, 211f, 225, 234, 241, 243, 256, 

257, 269, 282 

Articles of Government, 51 
Augsburg Confession, 127 
Augustus, Emperor, 198 
Aurogallus, Matthew, 14 and note 5 
autocatacrites (Self -condemned men), 134 
Auxentius, Bishop, 200 
Ave Maria, 16 f 

BAN, 274 

Banner, the Emperor's, 108 

Vol. V 20 

304 Index 

Baptism, 144, 159, 290, 292, 295 

A mark of the Church, 272 

Apostolic Canon on, 166 

Baptismal shirt or cloth, 297 
by heretics, 165 

Council at Constance letter to Damascus concerning, 213 
denned by Luther, 272 

St. Cyprian and rebaptism, 165 
Battle, cries, 67, 86 
Bible, Luther's German, 9 
Bigamy, 278ff 
Billiffkeit, see Justice 
Bishop (s) 

"Bridegroom" of the Church, 281f 

Endowments of, 138 

Luther's definition of " bishop, " 205 

Pope condemns marriage of, 278 
true duty, 98 

Worldly lords, 98 
Bishop of Rome, see Pope 
Boniface I, Pope, 210 
Bull, Papal, 

Exsurge doming 77 

CALENDAR, Correction of the, 182 

Candlemas (Presentation of our Lord), 184 

Canon law, 168, 278, 279, 281, 282, 283, 296f. See Gratian 

Carthusians, 247, 249 

Cassiodorus' Historic, tripartite, 129 

Celibacy, 164, 278 

Chalcedon, Council at, 145 

Called by emperor, 226 

Dealt with doctrine that Christ has two natures, 172 

Established no new articles of faith, 239 

Eutyches' doctrine, 227 

Eutyches' error, 228f 

Reason for council uncertain, 226f 

treatment of Eutyches, 239 
Ceremonies, see Rites and ceremonies 
Charles, Emperor, 58, 77, 88, 117, 118, 119, 128, 248 

Children's creed, 226, 252, 264. See Apostles' Creed 

Education of, 105 

able to protect and maintain His Christendom, 132 

Anastasius' teaching concerning, 214 

Antinomians and, 234f 

Anus' teaching concerning, 178, 201 
died for His Church, 134 

Distinction between Nestorian heresy and Eutychian, 22Sf, 237f 

Eutyches' doctrine concerning, 227f 
has abolished the ancient law, 184 

His Kingdom, 227 

His Second Coming, 118, 123 

Index 305 

His " work " as related to war, 84 

Nestorius' teaching concerning, 214f, 216f 

Pope and his would destroy to keep their power, 134 

Reformation of Church must come from, 133 

revealed through Holy Scriptures, 179 
The true Christology, 222f 
Turk Christ's enemy,, 93, 95 
Two things which injure, 93 

Christendom, 87 (Cf. "Sir Christian"), see The Church 
Christian II, King of Denmark, 45, 51, 53 
Christian Faith persecuted, 93 
Christian (s), 59 

are free lords over days and externals, 187 
Can a be a soldier, 34f 
How fight against the Turk, 102 
must not assume another office, 85 
must not fight as Christians, 83 
must pray that faith of Turk be overcome, 95 
shall not make war, 87 
Should go to war, 38f 

should not rebel against overlord or government, 44 
strive to keep God's commandments, 140f 
Under pressure of Turk some lapse, 93 
Who are the ? where found, 89 
Christmas, 184 
Christology, Luther's, 222f 
Church, Marks of 

Feigned marks, 289 

Holy Cross or suffering, 286 

It has God's Word, therefore holy, 270 

Other marks, 287f 

Prayer, 285f 

Seven "sacraments" or means of Christian sanctification, 287, 

cf . 288 

The external Word, 271 
The Ministry, 275f 
The Power of the Keys, 274f 
The Sacrament of Baptism, 272 
The Sacrament of the Altar, 273f 
Church, The 

Abuses in, 138 

Anathema of, 253 

Bride of Christ, 279ff 

Christ and His Church a sacrament, 285 

Communion of Saints, 227 

Explanation of the word ecclesia, 101, 264ff, 292 

"Goods" of, 87 

Holy Scriptures, the law and rule of, 253, 254 

Holy Spirit's work in, 267f 

Luther asserts he and his are, 136 

Marks of (which seej, 129f, 270ff, 292 

Means of Grace, 292f, 294 

not made holy by external customs and rites, 295 

one of the three divinely founded hierarchies, 298, 299 

306 Index 

Other designations of, 265 

Pastors and schoolmasters finest jewels, 255 

Pope and his are worst enemies, 134, 136 

Pope and his assert they are, 135 

Reformation of according to fathers and councils, 137f 

Schools needed by, 297 

The real enemies which should fight, 87 

Two attitudes toward reformation of, 139, 142 

What is, 129, 264, 270ff, 289 

Where the Word is preached, believed, confessed there is, 271 
Church, The Roman, 25 

Canonists rule, 296 

Holiness of, 269 

not the Christian Church, 266f 

Pope and bishops " bridegrooms " of, 281 

Pope and his assert they are the Church, 135 

Teaching of the, 26 

See, Pope 
Circumcision, 188ff 
Cistercians, 247 

Classes, Social, see, Equals, Inferiors, Superiors 
Clement VII, 87, 127 

cause of defeats in Turkish wars, 86 

Real duties of, 86 

should support temporal rulers, 82 

Supremacy over worldly rulers, 82 

Their assumption of worldly offices, 85 

Their temporal wealth and lordship, 87 

Their true calling, 84 
Cochlaeus, Johannes, 14 note 2, 272 
coessentialis, 202 
coexist ewtialiSj 202 
Commandments, The Ten, 140, 191, 195, 252, 266, 267, 268, 285 

First, 24 

Sixth, 153 

First Table, 267, 269, 287, 288 

Second Tabk, 268, 269, 287, 288 
Common man, 105 
"Common person," 64 
Communicatio idiomatum, 220f , 228ff, 237, 238, 239 

Distinction between the Nestorian and Eutychian errors, 228f 

Citizen's as related to worldly rulers, 50, 53 

Soldier's life related to, 32f 
consilia (counsels), 116 
Constance, Council at, 241 
Constantia, 175, 199 

Constantine, Emperor, 146, 162, 175ff, 180, 182, 199, 204 
Constantinople, Church at, 208, 209f 
Constantinople, Council at, 145, 150, 206fT 

Bishop Damasus and the, 207f, 211 

deals with the doctrine, that the Holy Ghost is God, 172, 211 

Episcopal appointments made by, 208ff, 211 

Index 307 

Three things done by, 211 
When held and reason for, 206 
Constantius, Emperor, 199 
consubstantialis, 202 
"Council" (term), 147, 151, 154, 174 
Council, A General 

asked for by Luther, emperor and others, 131 
desired, 127 

(called, 127; postponed, 128) 

Four conditions under which Protestants would enter a free, 128 
Needs for according to Luther, 258f 

prejudiced even before convening, 131, 133 
repeatedly postponed, 127ff, 131, 135 
to be calkd by the monarch, not by the bishops, 146 
What must do, 250 

will not reform the Church, 133 
Council, Apostolic, 150ff, 188 

directed by the Holy Ghost, 150, 151 
Its ordinance cannot fall of itself, 153 
James vs. Peter, 193ff, 197 

Neither Church nor pope can alter its ordinance, 152 
Reason for this, 188ff 
With what this dealt, ISOff ' 
Council (Councils) 

A consistory or court, 253 

and pastors and schoolmasters, 255 
and the Diet, 254 

cannot help to the reformation of the Church, 142 
contradict each other, 143 

deal with matters of faith under special need, 257 
of Trent, 127 

Decrees of true must remain forever, 192 
Four Ecumenical Councils called by emperors, 226 
Four Ecumenical Councils did not establish any new article of 
faith, 241 
have no power to establish new good works or articles of 

faith, 212 

Offices of pastor and schoolmaster compared with power of, 252 
Reform of XV Century, 127 
St. Gregory's opinion of, 240 

True purpose and duty of, 178f, 206, 212, 215, 242, 256 
Universal councils compared to four Gospels by Roman bishops, 

145, 241 
What is a, 243 
What is a work, 243 . . 

Has no power to establish a new article of faith, 243 
Has power and must condemn new article of faith according 

to Holy Scriptures, 243f 
Has no power to order new good work, 244 
Has power to condemn wicked works, 244 
Has no power to impose new ceremonies, 250 
Has power to condemn them, 250 

Has no power to interfere in worldly law and government, 

308 * Index 

Has power to condemn such attempts, 250f 

Has no power to ordain tyrannous ecclesiastical statutes 

bound to condemn them, 251 
Has power to ordain certain ceremonies, 251 
(See, Council, A General) 
Councils, Ecumenical, 129 
Apostolic, ISOff, 188, 243 
Chalcedon, 145, 226ff, 241, 261 
Constantinople, 145, 150, 206ff, 215, 241, 261 
, Ephesus, 145, 213ff, 241, 261 
f Nicaea, 145, 150, 155, 175ff, 215, 218, 240, 241, 261 

(Which see) 
Councilmen, 105 
Courage, 57 

Crabbe, Concilia omnia, 129, 137 
Creed, The, 26 

Apostles', 73, 89, 226, 227, 234, 252, 264 
Athanasian, 155 

Children's, see Apostles' Creed 
Nicene, 201, 204 

cruciaty (Preaching of crusades), 104 
crimen laesae majestatis >(Kigh treason), 41, 52, 71 
Crusading taxes, 104 
Customs, see Rites and ceremonies 
Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, 208, 215 

DAHLBERG, Johann von, Bishop, 249 
Damasus, Bishop, 202f, 207, 213 
Danes, 45, 46, 51 f 
Daniel, The Prophet, 18 
Decretum, Gratian's, 143, 170 
Devil, The 

and the Church, 289 

ceremonies intended to supplant God's Word and Sacraments, 

291, 292, 293 
His, the easier way, 291 f 
Names, 291 

The Cloak puts on, 100 
the Turks' God, 89 

through the pope institutes sacramental rites, etc., 289, 290 
Dialectics, 13 
Dienstgeld, 65 

Dies dominica, see Lord's Day 
Diets, The, 254 
Dionysius of Alexandria, 166 
Dionysius of Syracuse, 49 
Dominicans, 236 
Donatists, see Anabaptists 


A movable festival, 182f 

Controversy at Nicaea over date of, 181 

On keeping, 186 

Settlement of < date controversy, 182 

Index 309 

ccclesfo, 101, 264ff, 292 
Eck, 129, 272 
Eloha, 101. See Allah 

and his overlord, God, 64 
and his subjects, 64, 66, 103 
Empire given to by God, 106 

His duty to wage the war against the Turk, 102f , 108 
How he is to wage war against the Turk, 103, 109 
Not head of Christendom or protector of Gospel, 103, 104 
Obedience to is obedience to God, 103 

should be exhorted concerning his office, 104 
" The second man, " 109 

Wrong and right views of responsibility, 106f, 109 
Emser, Jerome, 12 note 1, 272 
Ephesus, Council at, 145, 213ff 

Deals with the doctrine that Christ is not two persons but one, 172 
Defended the old faith, 225 
Nestorius condemned by, 215 
Reason for the, 214f 

summoned by emperor not by pope, 213 
Theotokos, 224 
episcopus, see Bishop 
Equals, 42, 56 
cqultcs, 159 
epieikeia, see Justice 
Ernst, Duke of Brunswick-Liineberg, 31 
Eunuchs, 164 

Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, 129 
Eusebius of Nicomedia, 201, 204, 207 
Eustathius, Bishop, 177 

an abbot, 227, 246 
condemned at Chalcedon, 235, 256 
Distinction between his error and Nestorius', 237 
doctrine concernnig Christ, 227f 
error, 228rT 

heresy opposed to Nestor ian, 237 
Evangelical counsel, 82 
Expletives, 55 
Exsurge domine (Papal bull), 77, 81 

FABER, Johannes, 14 note 1 

Faith, 73, 197, 256 

Faith alone, " 20f, 22 

Faith and Works, 20f 

Faith, Justification by, 9, 20ff, 230, 231, 233 

Family, The, 298, 299 

Fanatics, 97 

Fathers, The 

and the Holy Scriptures, 170ff 

contradict each other, 143, 168 
Writings of cannot help to reform Church, 142 
Ferdinand of Austria, 77, 121 

310 Index 

festa mobitia (Movable feasts), 182 

Feste Coburg, 9 


Fixed, 184, 185 

Movable, 182f 

Keeping free to Christians, 187 

Dues, 65 

Holdings, 65 

Rights, 65 
Fibelists, 140 
Fiefs, 65, 66 

" First Man, " see " Sir Christian " 
Flavian, Bishop of Antioch, 208 
Fornication, 194, 198 
Fortune, 62 
fraus (trickery), 43 
Frederick, Elector of Saxony, 57f, 82 


Galba, 45 

Gangra, Council at, 246, 257 

George, Duke of Saxony, 12 and note 2 

German (language), 10, 15 f 

Germans, 41, 66, 297 

Gerson, John, 249 

Gloss, glosses, 20, 142 


All rulership comes to, 64 

and His command to make war, 63 
and Government, 43, 36f, 38f, 56 
and rulers, 48, 49. 52, 54 
and vengeance, 46, 59 
and war, 58f 

His help in national need, 109 

His tolerance, 135 

His use of the Turk, 88 

His ways of helping a land, 111 

His Word, 92 

His wrath, 89, 135 

Priests' method of serving, 81 

When will abolish all rulership, 64 

working through His Church, 292 
Good works 

Distinction between Luther and papists on, 23 If 

false, see Wicked works 

new, 244, 256 
Gordian, Emperor, 45 

Government, 35, 36, 38, 39, 43, 56, 81, 95, 298, 299 
Grace, 189ff 

Grandiomontensians, 247 
Gratian, see Deere turn 
Gratian, Emperor, 145, 146, 159, 206 

Index 311 

Gravamina of the German Nation. 127 
Greed, 69, 70 
Greeks, 43, 46 

HANNIBAL, 57, 62 

Hausmann, Nicholas, 77 

Henry, III, IV, V, Emperors, 247 

Heretics, 135, 144 

Hermit, 160 

Hierarchies, The Three Divinely Ordained, 299 

Hilten, John, 236 


Christian, 267, 268 
Churchly and conciliar, 141 f 
Seven " sacraments " or means of Christian, 287 
The new, 244, 248, 249, 250 
Holy Cross, The, see Suffering 
Holy Spirit 

and the Apostolic Council, 150 
and the Church, 265, 270 
and the Council at Constance, 211 
and the Holy Scriptures, 171 
and the Ministry, 276 
Articles of faith must be revealed by, 179 

cannot contradict Himself, 153 

Councils which establish new articles of faith are without, 242 
His warning, 170 
Holiness a work of, 267 
Logic of, 259 

Macedonian teaching concerning, 206 
Mass of, 123 
Names of, 267 

Pope pretends to have power to alter an ordinance of, 152 
Power of the Keys and, 274 
rules all councils, 162, 243 
sanctifies Christians, 268, 287, 288, 299 
sanctifies the Church with the Word, 270, 285 
teaches good works in Scriptures, 244 
Holy Kings, Day of the, (Epiphany), 184 
Holy water, 290 
homoousios, 202, 203 
Hosius, Bishop, 176 
Hus, John, 261 

ICONIUM, Council of, 166 

Chopping above one's head, the chips fall in one's eyes, 64 

Running out of the rain and falling in the water, 214 

The beggar full of wounds, 50 

The dog who bites the spikes, 47 

The woman who prayed for the tyrants, 49 
Indulgences, 25, 83, 104, 120, 241 
Inferiors, 42f, 51f, 53, 54, 56, 63f, 65 
Inquisitors, 236 

312 Index 

Intercession of saints, see Saints, Intercession of 
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, 182 
ish hamud&th, 19 

JACOBUS of Nisibis, 177 

Jerusalem, Bishop of, 180, 211 

Jerusalem, Church at, 209, 211, 212 

Jerusalem, Council at, see Council, The Apostolic 

John, Bishop of Antioch, 215 

Jovinian, Emperor, 159 

Judas-kiss, 41, 200 

Julian, Cardinal, 86 

Julian, Emperor, 162 

Julius, Pope (II), 87 

Justice, 42 

Justification by faith, see Faith, Justification by 

Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, 215 


Keys, The Power (Office) of the, 174, 274f, 292 

Koran, The, 94, 95, 98, 99, 101, 115 

Kram, Assa von, 31, 32, 74 

LAESAE MAJESTATIS DIVINAE, see criwen laesae majestatis 

Lcmdsknechts, 72 

Lassla, King, 86 

Last Day, The, 135, 185, 237 


and equity, 40f, 41 
and justice, 42 

Just and necessary exceptions to, 40 

Mosaic, 188f, 190f, 193ff, 199 

Papal, 26 

Letter, Dominical or Sunday, 184 
Legate, Papal, 106f 
Leo, Pope (X), 81, 85, 227 
Lewis of Hungary, 120 
Liberty in allegiance, 112 
Licinius, 175 
Lies, 99, 100 
Link, Wenzel, 9 
Litany, The, 91 
Logic, 258f , 259 

Lombard, Peter, 169, 173, 225, 236 
Lord's Day, 184 

Lord's Prayer, 26, 73, 227, 252, 285, 286, 289 
Lords, see Princes 
Love, 197, 244 
Lucius, Arlan bishop, 97 
Ludwig, King, 86 

a good conciliarist, 158 

accused by hierarchy as being seditious, 98 

accused of flattering ruling class, 82 

Index 313 

accused of sedition, 82 

and his sympathizers heretics, 135 

and the Easter date, 182ff 

as revealed by his writing " On the Councils, etc., " 129 

asserts he and his are the Church, 136 

case discussed by emperor and princes, 106 

claims he knows the writings of the fathers at first hand, 142 

desired to present his cause before a general council, 131 

education and training in dialectics and philosophy, 13 

gladly contradicts his former ways, 205 
His busy life, 139 
His Christplogy, 129, 222 
His definition of episcopus, 205 
His doctrine of non-resistence, 82f 
His doctrine of the Church, 129 
His folly, 231 

His knowledge of the Church's past history, 129 
His lectures on the Holy Scriptures, 142 
Pope's purpose in condemning doctrine of non-resistance, 83 

ready to yield to right or to persist for sake of the 
Church, 139 

reasons for need of a council, 258 

review of Nestor ian error, 216ff 

reviews teaching of Antinomians, 233ff 

states the need of a general council, 136 

suggests a provincial council, 262 
The works and his strive to do, 140ff 
Turk and instrument in proving doctrine against the pope, 85 

villified by enemies, 92 
Luther's Writings 

Explanation of the Eighty-second Psalm, 78 
Herrpredigt wider den Turkey 77 
Ninety-five Theses, 77 
On Justification, 23 

On Temporal Government, 35, 39, ,74, 78, 82, 85 
Open Letter to the Christian Nobility, 127 
The Papacy at Rome, 129 
Lyra, Nicholas of, 289 

MACEDONIANS, 206, 240 
Macedonius, 215, 240 

Bishop of Constantinople, 207 

Condemned by Council at Constantinople, 211 

Teaching of, 206 

Magister sententiarum, see Lombard, Peter 
Manichaeism, 205, 223 
Manngeld, 65 

Marcian, Emperor, 146, 226 
Margaret of Austria. 248 
Marriage, 99, 100, 279ff, 296 
Mary, The Virgin, 16ff 

Anastasius' and Nestorius' teaching concerning, 214fl 

Mohammed's teaching concerning, 94f 

Thotokos, 224 

314 Index 

Mass of the Holy Spirit, 123 

Maurice, Emperor, 210 

Maximilian, Emperor, 47, 54, 87 

Means of Grace, 292. See Church, Holy Spirit 

Melanchthon, Philip, 14 

milites, 159 

militia, 156, 157, 158, 160, 161, 162 

militiam, one of the two divisions of the work of men, 66. See 

Ministry, The, 275f 

A mark of the Church, 275f 
and celibacy, 278 
and woman, 276 

Orders in, 276f 

Schools needed to furnish to the Church, 297f 
Mob, The, 45, 50, 53 
Mohacz, Battle of, 120 note 2 

A product of Arianism, 206 

Destroyer of Christ and His Kingdom, 94f 

His doctrines, a composite, 206 

His teaching, 94f, 115 
monachos (solitarius) , 160 
Monastery, 246f 
Monasticism, 159f, 245f 
Monk, 160 

Mother of God, see, Mary, The Virgin 
Miintzer, Thomas, 59, 97, 101, 292 
Murder, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100 
Murderer, 96, 97, 98, 106 

NATURE (Human), sinful, 24 

Nazarites, 95 

Nectarius, )Bishop of Constantinople, 208, 211 

Nestorianism, Modern, 224f 

Nestorius, 214f, 240 

Condemned by Council at Ephesus, 215, 256 

His error, 216f, 220ff, 228f 

His false logic, 232 

His heresy as opposed to Eutychianism, 237f 

His real fault, 217ff, 256 

His teaching concerning the Virgin, 214f 
New Testament, Luther's 

A pure German one of Us objectives, 14, 15 

Difficulties in translating, 14, IS, 16 

Eraser's New Testament translation compared with L's, 12 

Eraser's plagiarisms, 12 

influence on the German language, 10, 11, 15 

L's translation interdicted by authority, 12 

No one compelled to read, 11 

The translation must be intelligible to the common man, 15 

Translated according to Us conscience, 11 
New Year, 184 

Index 315 

Niczea, Council at, 145, 150, ISSff, 17Sff, 199, 204, 211 
Called by Constantine, 146, 176f 
Condemned Arius, 178, 201ff 
Consideration of external matters, government of Church, etc., 

loOf, loo 

Controversy over the date of Easter, 181ff 
Deals with doctrine that Christ is true God, 172, 178, 188, 206 
Drvised nor established nothing new, 206 
History of, 176ff 
Its decrees, ISSff 

Celibacy . . eunuchs, 164 
P-enance and purgatory, 156 
Rebaptism of heretics, 166, 188 
Suburbicarian churches, 163 
Those who go to war, 156 
War forbidden, 157 
Reason for the, 175ff, 206 
Nimrod, 96 

Nobles, 54f, 65, 66. See Superiors, Inferiors, Princes 
Nuremberg, Diet at, 127 

OATH, 112 

Distinction between and man in it, 34 

Of a judge, 34 

Of a soldier, 34 

The married estate, 34 
Order, Ecclesiastical good, 251 
Original sin, 203 


Cannot translate without using Us translation, 11 

Dare not be judges of L's translation, 11 

Ease with which they obey commandments and added works of 
holiness, 139ff, 141 

Lack ability to translate well, 10 

Luther compares himself with, 13 

Practices of, 137f, 204f 

Pretend to teach like L, 204f 

Profited linguistically through L's translation, 10 

Self -condemned, 134 
Pastor, 89, 92, 252, 25S 
Paul III, 127 

Paulianists (Photinians), 166 
Pavia, Battle of, 58, 86, 117 
Peace, 36, 57 
Peace of Nuremberg, 128 
Peasants' Rebellion, 40, 44, 48, 55, 79, 119 
Pelagians, 203 
Pelagius, 237 
Pen, 105 
Penance, 156 
Penitential practices, 92 

316 , Index 

Perjury, 112 

Persians, 46 

Pertinax, 45 

Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, 79 

Phocas, Emperor, 210 

Photmians, see Paulianists 

Pilgrimage, 25 

Platma's Historia d^ vitis pontificium, 129 

Plautus, 266 

Poramer, Doctor (Bugenhagen), 170 

Pope (Bishop of Rome) 

always seeking after power, 146f 
and bishops called bridegrooms of the Church, 281 
and Christ's words to Peter, 174 
and his followers self-condemned, 134 
and marriage of clergy, 278f 
and the churches at Antioch and Jerusalem, 208f 
and the council, 131 
and the Council at Constance, 241 
and the Turk, 115 
and civil power, 82 

claims to be supreme head and lord of all churches, 163 
claims to be the Church, 192, 264 
claims to primacy, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211 
compared with Mohammed, 116 
considers himself above councils and fathers, 138, 152 
Council at Constance and the, 207f 

Dignity of equal to Alexandria but beneath Jerusalem, 211 
Example of perversion of Christ's word by, 82 

has fallen away from the Gospel and embraced his own 

human doctrine, 98 
His holiness, 269 

His historians uncertain and obscure, 228 
His instituted rites and ceremonies, 289, 290, 296 
His keys, 275 

His "Koran" (Decretals), 116, 117 
His principal business, 98 
His true calling, 84 
Hypocrisy of, 101 

is Antichrist, 98 

Methods of extortion practiced by, 83 
not much better than Mohammed, 116 
not personally present but represented at Council at 

Nioea, 177 

Oppression and unfaithfulness of, 258 
Power acquired by, 147 
Practices of, 137f 

pretended to make war against Turk, 82, 83 
proposes making war against Turk under Name of Christ, 83 
purpose in con<3emning Us doctrine, 83 
Reforms and council must make, 260 
Suburbicarian churches, 163 
Testimony of and followers uncertain, 226f 
Those who do not yield to heretics, 135 

Index 317 

Tricky conduct and high-handed methods of, 131, 132, 135 
War cry of - soldiers, 101 

will not reform the Church, 133, 138 
Prayer, 90f, 285f ' 

against the Turk, 92 
Examples of, 91f 
Preacher, 68, 89, 92, 112, 114 
Preaching, Purpose of, 89, 112 
Priest, 137f 
Princes, 53f 

and Christianity, 60 
and their overlord, 64 
and their subjects, 64, 66 
assumption of spiritual offices, 85 
duty to protect their people, 59, 60 
false, monk- forced worship of God, 81 
hold their authority from God, 106 
Right and wrong views of responsibility, 106f, 109 
self-willed, 60 

should be exhorted concerning their civil office, 104 
Wise, 60 
Probus, 203 
Processions, 91 
Protestantism, 127 

A load of hay must make way for a drunken man, 196 
A prince is a rare bird in heaven, 60 
AHquando cpmpugmtntur et mali 

(Sometimes even the wicked are defeated), 200 
He who builds along the road has many masters, 11 
He who strikes back is wrong, 46 
I have verily heard that he who smites is smitten, 59 
If one thing is true, the other must be ; if the second is not true, 

neither is the first, 221 
Inventa Icge, inventa est fraus legis 

(When a law starts, Mistress Fraud is soon on hand), 43 
I ve known for seven years that horseshoe nails are iron, 13 
Lifting the plate and breaking the dish, 114 
No one has ever been so bad, that someone is not worse, 56 
No one shall be his own judge, 46 
Running out of the rain and falling into the water, 114 
Sic volo, sic jubeo, sic pro ratione vohmtas, 47 
The road runs past the door, 284 
Psalms, The, 285 
Purgatory, 156 
Purity, 283 

BUARREL, A Greek, 219 
uictonque vufo (Athanasian Creed), 155 


Rebaptism, 165 

Reformed Regular Canons (Augustinian), 247 

Relics, 287 

318 Index 

Religion (The Christian Faith), 156, 159, 160, 161, 162 
Repentance, 89, 90 
Revolution, 43f 
Rhodes, 85 
Righteousness, 34 

Rites and ceremonies, 251, 257. See adwphora 
Moderation needed, 297 

not instituted by God, 295 
Papal, 289f, 292 
Papal law and, 296 

serve good order, 295 
should be free, 295f 
useful and necessary, 295 
What they are, 295, 297 
Robbery, 96, 99 
Roman Empire, 118 
Romans, 43f, 45, 46, 57, 62 
Rome, 58 

Romulus and Remus, 210 

Christians should pray God for, 46 

Crazy should be deposed, 44 

Evil actions of are his condemnation, 47 

God has ordained, 48, 52, 72 

God's punishment of evil, 49 

must govern according to laws, 51 
Punishment of wicked, 48 
See Tyrant, Superiors, Princes, Inferiors 


Sacrament of the Altar, The, 26, 144f, 273f, 292, 295 
Sacraments, see Baptism, Marriage, Sacrament of the Altar 
Saint Ambrose, 22, 142, 200, 214 

Anthony, 160, 162, 245 

Athanasius, 179, 203, 204 

Augustine, 22, 82, 96, 97, 142, 144, 145, 147, 149, 165, 166, 167, 
171, 173, 199, 205, 206, 214, 225, 237, 245, 249, 250, 252, 258f, 
272, 282, 297 

Basil, 199 

Bernard, 143, 246, 247 

Bonaventura, 246 

Catherine, 185 

Cornelius, 165 

Cyprian, 16Sf, 173 

Eusebius of Gesarea, 214 

Francis, 248 

Gregory Nazianzus, 199, 240 

Hilary, 173, 174, 179, 200, 203, 214 

James, 192, 193f, 19Sff, 197f 

James of Compostella, 294 

Jerome, 11, 142, 147ff, 172, 173, 202, 214, 240, 245, 282 

John, the Apostle, 185, 281 

John Baptist, 184 

John Chrysostom, 142, 173, 214 

Index 319 

John the Hermit, 245 

Luke, the Evangelist, 17 

Martin of Tours, 185, 214 

Maurice, 157, 159 

Michael, 185 

Paphnutius, 164, 177, 181, 246 

Paul, the Apostle, 185, 208, 250, 258, 259, 281, 285 

Peter, the Apostle, 159, 185, 188ff, 208, 258, 259, 260, 261, 262 
and St. James, 193f, 197 
His sermon, 188ff 

Polycarp, 182 
Saints' Days, 185 
Saints, Intercession of, 9, 10, 23 

Condemned, 24 

No scriptural authority for, 23f 

Roman teaching concerning, 23 

Teach to avoid, 24 
Saints, Worship of, 24 

contrary to First Commandment, 24 
draws away from worship of Christ, 24 

Luther accustomed to but condemns it, 24 
Salvation, 93 
Satan, see Devil 
Schmid, Johan Faber, 272 
School-teacher, 252, 255 
Schools, 105, 255, 297f, 299 
Schwarzenberg,. Hans von, 261 
Scriptures, Holy 

and the Holy Spirit, 171 

are the law of the Holy Church, 253 

Augustine's statement concerning, 148f 

Canon law, ceremonies and, 296f 

Christ revealed through, 179 

Faith grounded on, 179 

Luther lectured on, 142 

made and preserved the Church, 172 
must remain master and judge, 143 
Self-defense, 58, 59 
Simony, 241 
" Sir Christian " (Luther's term for the " pious, dear body of Chris* 

tians"), 58, 88f, 101, 110, 117, 122 
Sbttus, Pope, 166 
Smalcald Articles, 127, 128 

For what intended, 128 

Luther author of, 128 

Signers of, 128 

When published, 128 
Smalcald League, 128 
sola, svlum, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 20 

A truly believing wellnigh unconquerable, 74 

Abuses of office, 37 

Blasphemy of, 72 

Business of soldiering, 159 

Vol. V 21 

320 Index 

Can a Christian be a, 34f 

Can a be a Christian, 156 

Can a fight for more than one prince, 69 

Careless, 62 

Correct appreciation of office, 36 

God evidently approves office, 66f 

Good humble toward God, bold toward enemy, 62 
has a right to his pay, 66 

John Baptist and, 37f, 66 

occupation right and godly, 34f, 38, 40 

Paid soldiers not condemned by Christ, 161 
punishes the wicked, protects the good, 36 

Shall a hire himself for pay, 65 

Should a fight for a wrong cause, 68 

Should a fight to gain temporal honor, 70 

Superstitions of, 72f 

The mercenary, 67, 72 

The professional, 57 

The commendation before entering battle, 73 

Where find pious, 110 

Who is to be a, 40 
Speyer, Diet of, 123 
Spires, Second Diet of, 77 
Spirit of Iks, 98 
Spiritual songs, 285, 286 
Staupitz, 249 

Suffering of the Church, 286, 287 

defy God's command when they judge their rulers, 46 

Faithless, 112f 

Obligations of to overlord, 65 
Sunday, see Lord's Day 
Superiors, 42f, 63f 
Swiss, 45, 46 

Sword, The, see Temporal Government 
Sword, The Duty of the, 56, 59, 64 
Sylvester, Pope, 146, 177 


Terence, 40 

Theodosius I, Emperor, 145, 146, 159, 206, 207, 213 

Theodosius II, Emperor, 146, 213, 214 

Theognis, Bishop, 207 

Theotokos, see Mary, The Virgin 


Difficulties in adequately, 15ff 

Difficulties in rendering an expression in one language in 
another, 16ff 

Literal meaning in, 19 

Luther conscientious in, 18 

Luther's purpose in, 18f 

Not every one can practice this art, 19 

Repayment for, 19 

Index 321 

A good, 11 

must have a fine command of language, 18 
Such as cannot be faithful, 19 
Treason, 112. See crimen laesae majestatis 
Trent, Council of, 127 
Turk, The 

a formidable enemy, 120 

a papist: saved by works, 101 

an enemy of government, 95 f 

an enemy of true marriage, 99 

and the pope, 115 
Chief doctrine of the faith of, 95 
Conquest of Constantinople and Greece by, 119 

does not permit freedom of faith and worship to Christians, 

93, 100 
God is using to punish the world, 88, 96 

government destructive not protective, 96, 101 
His god, the devil, must be beaten, 89 
His lands, 121 
His war cry, 101 

holds Mohammed higher than Christ, 94 
Invasion of, 77, 79 

is the devil, 98 

likes warlike pursuits better than peaceful ones, 99 

practices polygamy, 99 

Some Germans would like to rule them, 11 Iff 
Some things teaches, 115 
Success of faith due to God's wrath, 97 

the devil's servant, 89f, 93 
The Ottoman Turk's supremacy, 120 and note 3 
Virtues of, 100 

War against undertaken as Christian act, 83 
Wicked life of, 93 

will not tolerate pictures or images, 101 
Turk, War against the 

Diets held on account of, 85 
How rightly to make, 88 
Luther accused of opposing, 81 

must be begun with repentance, 89 

must be carried on by " Sir Christian, 88f , 102 

must be waged by the emperor, 102 

not to bt incited by false ideals, 103f 
Prayer nauat precede, 90 

requires thoroughgoing preparation and great reserves, 120f 
Til* pope jjaad, 83 
Tyrumfcadw, 43 
Tyt**t, 43, 44f, 47 


VALENS, Emperor, 247 note 7 
VAlcntaateu Emperor, 159^ 24? 
Vergerius, Paul* 12R 

322 Index 

Vices, Papal, 116 

Victor, Pope, 182 

Virgil, 266 

Virtues, Three Theological, 267 


Distinction between different kinds of, 59 

False confidence in ; example of, 61 f 

forbidden by the Council at >ficsea, 156f 

God and, 58 

God hates those who begin, 57 

He who starts war is wrongr, 56 
is not right, 59 

Just war, 38 

Justification of, 36 

justified in Scriptures, 37f 

must be fought in the fear of God, 61 

Old Testament instances of unjust, 58 

Persons affected by, 42f 

Those who begin unnecessarily always punished, 37 

Three kinds of people who may make, 42f 

What is, 35 
Watch-words, 67 
Wealth, Temporal, 68 
Wesel, John, 236 
Wetzel, George, 272 
Word, The, 270f , 285, 289, 290, 292, 294 

Power of, 271ff, 290 

The preached, 271 
Work of men, 66 
Works, 189ff 

Good, 9, 20 

Meritorious, 294 

Necessary and unnecessary, 140f 
of the Law, 21 

Wicked, 244f, 256, 257. See Faith and Works 
Worship, 24 
Wrong, Governmental, 44, 45 

YEAR OF JUBILEE (Golden Year), 157 




2:24 99 

3 : 15 239, 300 

3 : 16 276 

3 : 18 299 

4 : 19 279 

10:9 96 

14:17 111 

18:24ff 111 

18 : 32 92 

22 : 18 239 

32 : 24ff 23 

39:3 111 


20:5 24 

20 : 21 294 

22 : 28 46 

33 : 20 292 


14 : 45 58 

21 : 22ff 58 


1 : 26, 41, 44 108 

2 : 26fiE 58 

6: 16 25 

24 : 17 240 

32 : 21 263 

34 : 6 187 


7: Iff 63 


7:20 67 

12:6 58 

20 : I8ff 109 

I Samuel 

2 : 30 71 

12 : 15 87 

14:6 HI 

22 : 9 294 

22:18 111 


324 Scripture References 

II Samuel 

15 : 32ff 42 

16:16ff 42 

16:22ff 111 

I Kings 

9 : 10 25 

17:1 92 

18:21 259 

22:22 204 

II Kings 

3:14 111 

14:8ff 58 

22:2ff 58 

23:29 58 


Book 14 

34:30 48 

38:7 201 


2:2 103,242,299 

2:2f 243 

7:12E 90 

33 : 17 89 

44:6f 109 

51 : 7 203 

60 : lOff 109 

68:1 56,58 

76:4 96 

81:11 250 

82:6 201 

91 : 13 300 

127:1 298 

147: 10 89 

147:11 109 

147:19 172 


26:27 43 


5*8 66 

7:16 40 

9:18 111 

10:1 40 


10:5 88 

40:18 255 

Scripture References 













74, 271 










12: 10, 11 




I Maccabees 












5:11, 12 


5: 19 
























326 Scripture References 

9:16 183 

10:4 240 

10:10 68 

10:23 44 

10:32 93 

10:32f 271 

11:30 299 

12:8 186 

12:30 242 

12:34 15 

13:4ff 271 

13:23 288 

15:14 152 

15:27 172 

16:18 153,210 

16:19 174 

17:5 250 

18:15ff 274 

18: 17 274 

19:29 68 

22:21 72 

22:43' 239 

23:2 240 

23:4 139 

26:4 242 

26:8 16 

26:49 41 

26:52 84,117 

28:20 169,179,227,270 


1:23, 26 272 

6:18 204 

9:23 73 

9:26 272 

14:1 242 

14:4 16 


1:28 16 

1:32 225 

1:42 225 

2:4 225 

3:14 66,161 

4:23 139 

8:15 288 

11:46 258 

14:31 121 

15:7 90 

19:22 135 

22:2 242 

22:26 251 

22:55 41 

23:28 135 

Scripture References 327 


1:3 229 

































21; 6 









10: Iff 












15 : lOf 





150, 195 





19 : 39, 41 


















10 (Vii 













328 Scripture References 
















36, 43, 72, 11 

13: Iff 










I Corinthians 








170, 181 

3 * 12ff 
























15:49, 53 


II Corinthians 























< . *ts*. 

187, 193, 18 
197, 244 



2:3 203 

2:20 192 

Scripture References 









I Thessalonians 


280, 285 


186, 250 


II Thessalonians 

I Timothy 

2: Iff 





II Timothy 








I Peter 






















330 Scripture References 

II Peter 



2: US 















ptthltr ICthrary 

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